BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — After watching his team put together another impressive performance and continue its tremendous start to the season, Virginia Tech coach Mike Young still wasn’t ready to accept the key to the city or throw a party on Main Street.
Instead, he took a more cautious tone.
“I feel good about it, but we’re not organizing any parades down South Main any time soon,” he said. “We’re four (conference) games in. Long way to go.”
Jalen Cone scored 18 points off the bench to lift No. 19 Virginia Tech to its latest conquest, a 77-63 victory against Notre Dame.
Cone connected on 5 of 11 from the floor, including four 3-pointers, as the Hokies (9-2, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) bounced back from Wednesday’s loss at Louisville. Virginia Tech has won five of six games and five consecutive home games.
Keve Aluma added 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Hunter Cattoor had 15 points for the Hokies, who held Notre Dame to just two field goals in the second half. The lockdown defensive performance came just four days after they allowed Louisville to shoot 50% in the second half of a 73-70 defeat.
“I just didn’t like how we played Wednesday,” Young said. “I take absolutely nothing away from Louisville, but I didn’t think we were Virginia Tech on Wednesday. Didn’t think we were very good in the first half here, but we got some things together, and that was as good a half as we’ve had in quite some time.”
Nate Laszewski led the Fighting Irish (3-7, 0-4) with 17 points, with most of that coming from an 11-for-12 performance at the free-throw line.
Notre Dame led 50-49 after a 3-pointer by Prentiss Hubb with 12:16 remaining, but that was the Fighting Irish’s last field goal. Aluma started an 11-3 run with two free throws and ended it with a dunk with 9:11 left to give Virginia Tech the lead for good.
Dane Goodwin finished with 12 points for the Fighting Irish, who shot just 37.5% (18 of 48).
“You’re not going to beat a good team playing 20 or 25 minutes, and that’s kind of what we’ve done against really good teams — and they’re really good,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They’re really a gifted team so … we’re learning, trying to learn the hard way to put 40 minutes together.”
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish came in shooting 45% this season and led the ACC in 3-point field-goal percentage (38.9%), but terrible shooting in the second half doomed them despite getting some good looks. Laszewski, who led the ACC in field-goal percentage (65.8) and 3-point field-goal percentage (59.0), took only six shots and just one 3-pointer. He needs to get more attempts going forward if the Fighting Irish are to turn this season around.
Virginia Tech: Led by Cone, Virginia Tech’s bench has been outstanding this season. For the seventh time in 11 games, the Hokies’ bench scored at least 20 points, finishing with 35 against the Fighting Irish. The Hokies have a lot of depth, which is one of the biggest reasons this team has staying power in the ACC race.
CONE CONTINUES STRONG PLAY
Cone missed the first three games of this season with an injury, but he has found his rhythm by scoring in double figures in five consecutive games. He is shooting 44% (23 of 52) from beyond the 3-point arc in that span.
“Really just playing my game,” Cone said. “Just having that confidence from Coach Young to give me the green light to play and really just play my game and be who I am.”
“He’s so hard to guard,” Young said. “He got fouled twice behind the arc … Glad he’s a Hokie. He’s a lot of fun to coach. I’m not very good, but I can do a lot of things with a guy like him.”
The Hokies suffered a three-point loss at Louisville earlier in the week, but should remain in the Top 25 after Sunday night’s win.
The Fighting Irish play at Virginia on Wednesday.
The Hokies play at home against Duke on Tuesday.
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