Cone Grows Up, Leads Hokies to Program's First Win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome

Cone paced all scorers with 19 points and Virginia Tech improved its conference record to .500 (2-2).

Cone led all scorers with 19 points. [Virginia Tech Athletics]

Standing just a few feet in front of the Virginia Tech bench as teammates bombarded him with high-fives and an occasional slap on the back, Jalen Cone flashed a smile.

The 5-foot-10 freshman guard out of Walkertown, N.C. said he knew his time would come. He just wasn't quite sure when that moment might be.

"I just waited my turn and stayed patient," Cone told ESPN studio analyst Jordan Cornette in a postgame interview. "So when coach threw me in, I knew exactly what he wanted. I always prepare for moments like these. It was just time to step up."

In a game that saw the Hokies put up one of their most impressive defensive efforts of the season, it was the shooting of Cone that stole the show Tuesday in a gritty 67-63 road win over ACC opponent Syracuse — the program's first-ever victory against the Orange at the Carrier Dome.

Cone, as a junior, announced in May that he had decided to play basketball for Tech and also declared that he planned to graduate Walkertown High School a year early and reclassify as part of the class of 2019. At the time, Cone said he chose Mike Young and the Hokies because they "needed him".

"Virginia Tech, they need Jalen Cone," he told the Winston-Salem Journal. "It's not more of a want, but they need Jalen Cone. And Coach Young and his system have Jalen Cone written all over it."

Early on this season, however, Cone hasn't always looked like a necessity for Tech. Entering Tuesday, he was averaging just 5.6 points per game and his season high was 17 points in a win over lowly Delaware State on Nov. 20.

Naturally, against the Orange and their patented 2-3 zone, it was safe to assume the Hokies would need players to find success shooting the ball from 3-point range to stretch the Syracuse zone and open up the baseline if the team was going to be successful. That's where Cone came in.

"I knew that Cone, if we were going to win, was going to have to get a couple of shots down," Young said.

With Tech trailing 38-29 with 13:47 remaining in the game, Cone did just that as he exploded for 13 points, including a pair of four-point plays during a 23-6 run. By the time the spurt was over, the Hokies led 52-44 with 7:46 remaining in the game and never trailed from there.

Cone finished with a career-high 19 points as he went 5-for-7 from 3-point range and 4-for-4 from the free throw line. He scored 16 of his 19 points in the second half.

"You could tell that everybody was more confident," Cone said. "At U.Va, after watching the film, everybody came out a little flat, so things weren't going our way. Tonight, I felt like everybody came out and was ready to play."

In that 65-39 loss to the Wahoos on Saturday, the Hokies shot just 27 percent from the field, including 4-of-25 from deep. It was their lowest point total since a 43-33 loss to East Carolina on Feb. 18, 1967.

But what Tech first-year coach Mike Young has preached to his players this season is to maintain confidence in shooting the ball. If players are open, no matter how much they're struggling, Young has made it clear that he expects them to take the shot.

So on Tuesday with Landers Nolley having one of his worst shooting nights of the season — he finished 4-of-14 for 13 points — and the Hokies still struggling from 3 as a team, Young made a minor adjustment by moving Cone, who is typically the backup point guard, off the ball alongside starter Wabissa Bede.

"I told them in the locker room that it's one of those team wins," Young told Jon Laaser and Mike Burnop on the Tech postgame radio show. "We found a lineup that we liked and were doing a nice job with Wabissa and Jalen together. That lineup went a long way in getting us out of here with a huge one."

That move also allowed Bede to get in the middle of the Syracuse zone, where he remained poised and often found open teammates for jumpers. Once the Hokies started hitting them, the Orange simply couldn't catch up.

Bede finished with a team-high eight assists. Tech, as a team, assisted on 20 of its 21 made field goals, with the only unassisted basket coming off a Landers Nolley fastbreak.

"Cone comes in and bangs one and then it's like the skies open and we're throwing them in left and right," Young said. "A lot of guys played well. Landers Nolley, I thought, was really good. I thought putting him at the top of the floor where he could see over top of it and Wabissa in the high post was something that helped us greatly."

It was Tech's first win over 'Cuse in the Carrier Dome — it was previously 0-6 all-time — and the first road victory over the Orange since 1976, when they played at Manley Field House.

"It's very big for us, coming off a loss on the road to UVA," Cone said. "I feel like we needed this moving forward, building confidence in our whole team. We have a young team full of a lot of freshmen and redshirt freshmen. So I feel like we needed this win, especially in this historical arena".

Young added: "It's a historic building, a great coach, a great basketball team. You know what I'm most impressed with? We played well in spurts, didn't play particularly in spurts. But coming back, a young bunch coming back after getting your ears pinned on Saturday and coming back on the practice floor and absorbing another scouting report. Going on the road and getting a win in this league is significant and it's needless to say that I'm proud of them."

When Cone committed to the Hokies, he was ranked the No. 9 point guard in the country by ESPN and the No. 53 overall player. He averaged 25.7 points, six assists and two steals as a junior and was named the Winston-Salem Journal's Player of the Year that season.
So as he went through the growing pains of being a freshman at the Division I level, it would have been easy to get discouraged and not prepare accordingly. But that's not who Jalen Cone is, he said.

"I knew coming in that I had to prove that to (Young) and of course with my high school accolades, he saw what I could do," Cone said. "He just trusted me and told me if I feel comfortable with a shot, take it. When the opportunity came and we played against that Syracuse zone, I just knew I had to knock down big shots."

The love from Young to his freshman point guard was reciprocated on Tuesday with his big night. Cone said that it was the type of performance he's been preparing for since he stepped foot on campus.

That's why once he hit his fifth, and final, trey of the evening to extend the Tech lead to six with just under a minute remaining, the straight-faced teen finally let out a smile as Syracuse called timeout and the celebration began in front of the Tech bench.

"I don't know that I expected him to get five of them down from long range, but that's what he does," Young said. "He is a dynamic scorer. That was his rep coming out of high school where he was a really, really good player."

"Significant win for the Hokies," he added. "We are tickled to get out of here with a great one."

Comments

new TKP contributor? Welcome and thanks for the writeup!

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

Syracuse is No. 36 in AdjO and Tech is No. 87 in AdjD. That concerned me a bit before the tip. It was a pleasant surprise for the Hokies to hunker down on defense a bit and do enough to help win the game.

If radford can learn to slow it down sometimes he can become a beast reminds me alot of Clarke in the erratic stuff on offense but getting rebounds he outworks everyone and gets alot of timely offensive boards and some really good defensive boards. Hes been a sneaky good player with the limited size we have inside.

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

I don't know if I've ever seen 4 point plays by the same player so close to one another as the two Cone drew last night.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Come get on the.... COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooone Train

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

Jalen says...
"Virginia Tech, they need Jalen Cone,"
Love that this kid refers to himself in the third person. He's got character.

On another note...he just turned 19 years old like 10 minutes ago - you think he'll still grow an inch?

JP

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..

I thought he had just turned 18 in November.

If he does grow an inch he might make it to the listed 5'10. Stood next to him a couple of weeks ago, di not quite seem 5'10 to me....... But I will say this, high quality guy, high quality family and yes well take all of the Jalen Cone's we can get!!!

"Don't go to, go through"

I recall a scouting report during his recruitment that had him at 5'8" Recent growth spurt?

I'm just here to sling some legs

Welcome Cody. Terrific write-up. That was a fun game to watch.

On a side note, Radford's size may be one of those things we will talk about for a long, long time. Do you know he is only 6'1"?

Need to get him in the Bucky Hodgifier. Just imagine how good he'd be at 8'1.

I'd go the other direction with Radford. Did you know he's only 5'3" but has a 62" vertical?

Finally some good news!

Reach for Excellence!

VT Football: It'll get after ya!

Proud Hokie since 2004.

Was surprised to be informed by those who are paid to know these things, that our man PJ Horne has only made one three pointer all season and only tried two. Ummm, maybe I could get a job like that since I know how to read. They did seem to know how to pronounce everyone's name correctly, though.
Anyway, great write up, great win for the Hokies.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

This was a cringe worthy moment. I think he has only attempted 2 FTs all season, but I've seen games where he has made more than 2 threes. And they guy went back to it like 10 different references. Very ACC Network of him.

The Dude Abides

He had definitely attempted more FT's than that. I thought as they kept repeating that stat, that they must've been mixing up Radford's 3-PT stats with Horne's. He had missed more than 2 3-point shot attempts in that game alone. Terrible by them, and for it to go to TO and come back and they repeat the same inaccurate stat and never correct. Really, really, bad.

He had 19 made threes coming into the game, for goodness' sake. I looked it up after the UVA game and his repeated shots and misses just to see how he'd been doing so far in other games. But even if I had not, I certainly could have read the stats if my job was depending on it. Nobody's perfect, nobody was harmed by the mistake but the announcers and they didn't know it, and we won the effing game, so even I don't care.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Yeah he definitely got is pretzels crossed on that one. I did notice at that moment that I don't get nearly as fixated on announcing errors when good things are happening for the Hokies.
And yeah, maybe you could.

If I had his job, I'd watch just about every conference game and know these teams inside and out.

I was worried that with his size and leaving early to come here that he might not be physically ready for ACC play immediately, but man was he an impact player for us last night. All the freshmen have had their moments this year (both good and bad), but that to me was Jalen Cone's definitive breakout game and it couldn't have come at a better time. I'm really excited to see what this team can do in the next few years!

he just turned 19 years old like 10 minutes ago - you think he'll still grow an inch

Radford's size may be one of those things we will talk about for a long, long time

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Great road win! Serious question, what would our record be right now if Buzz had stayed??

Great road win! Serious question, what would our record be right now if Buzz Kerry Blackshear had stayed??
Let's just talk about the things that actually hurt the team.

The LewDew, Professional Golf Bum

Impossible to answer because the change at coach also influenced a lot of roster decisions. Some of the recruits we had left because Buzz left. Some of the recruits we got came because Mike Young came. Blackshear might have stayed if Buzz stayed, he also might have left even if Buzz stayed. There's just too many variables to make a straight comparison

Love how CMY corrected himself after he said "hell" 🤣 he seemed so annoyed with himself that he let it slip.

The old coach in him showed out when he called Syracuse "the Orangemen," haven't heard that term in FOREVER. Love this coach, he wears his thoughts and opinions on his sleeve, and doesn't hold back for nothing.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ #YNWA

Boeheim was outcoached by Young. Doubling Hughes at the beginning of the defensive set after he made the late deep three was incredible coaching.

Yes, that was great! Great to see him continue to try different things, rotate who was at top the key, who was in high post, until he found something that worked. Finally, getting Cone in, and penetrating with those passes to the short corner on the baseline was an awesome adjustment that helped get Cone the open looks we needed.

That's because Coach Young is a better coach than Boeheim right now.

IMO the 2-3 defense is incredibly archaic and has no business in the modern game, especially with the increasing 3 point line distance further spacing the floor. At this point the 2-3 is basically a gimmick that can have some degree of success in March because teams never see it anymore so it throws them off. ACC teams are a little more used to it, so Syracuse has not been faring well in conference play in recent seasons. Oh and Syracuse's offense is unimpressive once again.

Yep, when he has a veteran team, it can be a very good defense overall. It's a pain in the neck to move the ball when his wings know how to close and defend. When he has that and one NBA-ish guy that can score, he can have a top 25 team. Those teams are more rare for him in the ACC, which is why he hates the league and hated the move.

At the 1:58 mark it looks like he almost dropped an F bomb. I like the way he handles/talks with the media. Regardless of how this season turns out, I think CMY will have us humming along the next few years.

After you mentioned this I got to watch the video. It does sound like he was getting ready to drop the f bomb. I like the way CMY talks about the players. It's hard to imagine anyone not wanting to play for CMY.

It seems like CMY has a running tape in his head of the entire game. The level of detail in his recall is just impressive. I know he has stats in front of him but it's like he can recall every moment and then count things in his head as he's talking about it. He's got the genuine awe shucks Mayberry thing that I think endears him to all of us. But behind the folksy barber is like some kind of basketball savant.

"Don't go to, go through"

We're 2-1 on the road this year and 0-1 at home in conference. Granted it was Dook, but what a roller coaster this season will be. We've already got a huge upset under our belts, and expect a couple of shock losses. Gonna be a wild ride, hope we can squeeze in an NCAA Tournament berth, our resume is quite strong at this moment.

Such a big deal if Cone can emerge as the lead guard we all expected him to become. Cone-Bede backcourt was what I envisioned coming into this season.

9 more ACC wins gets us in the NCAA's, IMO. Let's do this!

I don't necessarily disagree, but I think one or two of those 9 wins need to be against the eventual top 4 in the league.

We have Clemson, Syracuse, and Miami on the schedule twice and they look to be bottom third of the ACC this year, so beating them doesn't help us as much. Obviously the Michigan State win is huge, but if we don't follow it up by beating any of the better teams in the league, the rest of our resume is fairly weak. If our losses had been more competitive, maybe, but we have to perform better against tourney-worthy teams to stay on the right side of the bubble.

100% agree. I think 10 wins is closer to a lock, but if our 9 wins are 2 Clemson, 2 Cuse, 2 Miami, Wake, GiT, and Pitt, I don't think we are happy on Selection Sunday. Even with 10, if you add BC at home to that list, we are probably iffy. We played well against Duke, but got rekt by uva. If we get destroyed in all of our losses, even with 10 wins we might not be on the right side of the bubble.

FWIW, dc was saying 9 MORE wins. So that would put us at 11 total.

But remember, the ACC has a 20-game schedule now, so 11-9 in conference doesn't look all that great unless you've got a few scalps too.

Yes, exactly- and I agree with you... of the 9, a couple need to be Top 100 wins

Ahhh, reading comprehension will get after ya.

11 ACC wins with the MSU win...if that doesn't get us an NCAA bid something has gone haywire somewhere......

"Don't go to, go through"

Might you say certifiably insane...

Can't spell DBU without Bud

Uncle Fester would heartily agree.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Ol' Uncle Fester has grown on me quite a bit as an analyst. He may be one of the best in the business.

"Don't go to, go through"

I actually always liked the dude, myself. Met him a couple of times and he was as nice as he could be to someone he had no reason to even notice. I shared his disappointment about the big dance. Other than his miss on Curry, and yeah, don't @ me about it, we've hashed it out to the point of nausea, I had no problem with him and thought he did a pretty good job in a then tough place to try to build a higher level program. I also like him as an analyst, he knows what he's talking about and shoots straight.

Reel men fish on Wednesdays

Good thing he came through because Nolley was shooting like late career Kobe Bryant (not a compliment) or New York Knicks version of Carmelo. He couldn't find the range and was bombing away because we don't have the size to do much inside against the zone, even when Bede was able to catch at the line and turn he usually just kicked it right back out.

The last 3 was an absolute dagger. Props to the kid for riding the hot hand and having the guts to take another one. Was watching a few minutes before that when he passed on a wide open 3 and thought he doubted himself a bit.

The Dude Abides

New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony won an NBA scoring title with 28.7 points a game.

In other news, Kihei Clark shot 0-10 on two-point field goals in a loss against Boston College. So glad those assholes always play lights out against us in their building. Hopefully we can get them back in Cassell.

Marshall University student.
Virginia Tech fanatic.

Great game by cone. We have a nice little rotation of who has the hot hand/pushing each other to get better between Cone, Cattoor, and Alleyne and they all seem to play defense. Cattoor seems to be more willing to rebound (in the games I've watched)

Side note: Anyone hear the announcer in the first half when Bede was bringing the ball up the court off a rebound. Pronounced it "Bay-Day". Come on ACCN you have one job and its to know your conference.

Cone said he chose Mike Young and the Hokies because they "needed him".

"Virginia Tech, they need Jalen Cone," he told the Winston-Salem Journal. "It's not more of a want, but they need Jalen Cone. And Coach Young and his system have Jalen Cone written all over it."

Gotta love it.

daveinop approves

Cone was just what this team needed. I believe when he hit the first 4 point play, we were an awful 5 for 27 from the 3 point line. We missed way too many open 3 point shots. Hopefully this surprise win will help bring some focus back to this team. Very impressed with the team the final 13 minutes.

Hey, Cody.

This was a pro quality article.
Better than I've read in some newspapers.

Good job.

This is going to be great for the ACC.