Virginia Tech freshman guard Jalen Cone came into the night against Syracuse averaging 5.6 points per game. In just under four minutes, he handed the Orange their second straight home loss to open ACC play with four threes, including a pair of four-point plays. Virginia Tech handled Syracuse by a final score of 67-63 and the Orange fell to 8-7 on the season.
Joseph Girard III, Quincy Guerrier and Marek Dolezaj leapt into Cone three times midway through the second half to empower Virginia Tech’s offense on the way to a 22-6 run. They flipped the Orange from up 38-30 to down 51-44 with under nine minutes to go. After a pair of offensive rebounds and free throw shooter upheld the Hokies’ lead, Cone sealed the game on the left wing with a three to secure a 67-63 victory.
Landers Nolley tried to unload a steady dose of threes over the Syracuse defense, largely on swing passes throughout the first four minutes. He missed his first three tries, while both teams combined to shoot 2-for-9 through the opening slog. Bourama Sidibe tipped a rebound out to PJ Horne and Elijah Hughes goaltended on Nolley’s third-chance shot for Tech’s only bucket. Hughes hit a deep two going the other way.
Marek Dolezaj, who worked the block pregame with Adrian Aurty, went inside early and often to use hesitation to produce steady offense for the Orange. He tagged Nolley with an early foul on a face-up, but missed both free throws. Two trips later he finished a make on a similar set past P.J. Horne.
Wabissa Bede attacked Syracuse offensively from the high post, initially dishing out four assists through the midway point in the first half. Horne hit a three and finished back door past Dolezaj on a high-low pass from Bede. At 6’0”, he provided the shortest attack from the high post Syracuse had seen all year, though Bourama Sidibe pressed up on him later in the half to force him to miss from mid-range and turn the ball over.
Sidibe grabbed four rebounds defensively in the first half after recording 0 against Notre Dame. He nearly dropped one along the baseline out-of-bounds without pressure, but recovered and ran back on offense to catch a lob from Dolezaj, who was facing-up.
Girard broke out a heavy dose of crossovers guarded by Nahiem Alleyne atop the zone. He attempted two drives inside, missing both toward the front and back end of the half. His perimeter work served Syracuse better through a 30-19 start to the game, dishing to Buddy Boeheim on his left for a three and hitting a spot-up three on his way to a 4-for-8 start.
He also communicated strongly, signaling something to Dolezaj before an in-bounds then, when the play broke down , yelling out the shot clock to Hughes to set him up for a spot-up three past the eight-minute mark.
Quincy Guerrier entered off his best game yet with SU, grabbing a missed three by Girard after Dolezaj’s initial offensive rebound and finishing with a soft touch inside. He added a pair of successful free throws to cap a 5-for-6 stretch at the line on a baseline drive.
Hunter Cattoor provided the Hokies some badly needed rhythm off the bench, with dribble penetration and spot-up shooting of his own. He finished a three in the corner from Bede and led a fast break that Dolezaj and Guerrier recovered to stop at the rim. Dolezaj tipped away the miss and Boeheim hustled to the corner to secure a rare rebound for the back court.
That effort on both ends maintained Syracuse’s lead throughout the first half. The zone forced Nolley, a 43% three-point shooter, to a 0-for-5 start outside, while Hughes drove one of his misses all the way to set up Dolezaj for a slam in the lane. Alleyne drilled a three to pull Virginia Tech within three points before the end of the half, then Girard hit a step-back triple with under one minute left to give the Orange some room up 33-27 at halftime.
Sidibe disrupted Bede more into the second half while Mike Young opted to counter him with John Ojiako. He grabbed two offensive rebounds on the back line in short order, finishing one and missing the free throw he tagged on Sidibe.
But Cone was the one to fully open the Hokies offense wide with his spot-up shooting, drawing Girard off his feet to foul him on a deep two. He drilled a three through Guerrier’s eager arm, converting that free throw then following a jumper by Horne to cap an 11-4 run with another three in transition. Bede got Sidibe back on a strip to set up the last shot, then after timeout Nolley stole the ball from Dolezaj to earn himself a free dunk on the run and a tie game at 42-42.
Cone kept the run rolling. He caught Dolezaj slipping in the left corner, drilling a three through his foul, and Nolley got another to go atop the arc as Virginia Tech moved the ball inside and out through Bede and Cone. Tech extended the run to 22-6, establishing a 51-44 lead 32 minutes into the game in less than four minutes of game time.
Syracuse found itself trailing after 32 minutes and immediately capsized on the boards. Tyrece Radford beat the back line to earn two free throws, then Isaiah Wilkins tracked down Cone’s missed three to the sideline to feed Radford into the lane to foul out Dolezaj. He split a pair, Hughes did as well the other way and Horne converted two on the way back to get Virginia Tech a 57-50 lead.
Syracuse will hit the road to take on Virginia this Saturday. That game tips at 4:00 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN.