By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
The Dayton men’s basketball team pulled away in the second half to defeat North Florida 86-71 Saturday afternoon at UD Arena.
With the victory, the Flyers (6-1) extended their home winning streak to 26 games—tied for the eighth-best active streak in NCAA Division I—and helped push the previous 90-61 loss to Xavier further out of memory.
“[I’m] really happy with our team being able to respond from a long week in Florida and then have such a very difficult opponent when we got back to be able to pull through,” Dayton head coach Archie Miller said after the game.
Dayton redshirt junior guard Charles Cooke led all scorers with a season-high 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting and 8-of-12 from the free throw line. Redshirt freshman center Steve McElvene took advantage of his size advantage over North Florida and recorded his second career double-double with 14 points and 16 rebounds. Junior point guard Scoochie Smith added 14 of his 15 points in the second half, which the Flyers led from start to finish.
North Florida came into the game as the third-best team in the nation in both 3-point field goals made per game and 3-point field goal percentage. They had drained 19 3s in their previous game, a 119-108 loss to LSU and already took down a Big Ten team, Illinois, 93-81—on the road in their first game of the season.
The Ospreys lived up to their reputation early and often in the first half, finishing the half 9 of 14 from deep, including a 5 of 5 performance by senior forward Beau Beech.
UNF opened up a 20-13 lead over Dayton with 12:10 left in the half before the Flyers finished on a 25-15 run to take a 38-35 lead at the break.
Six different Flyers scored in that stretch to end the half.
By the end, Dayton had five players score in double figures, with junior forward Kendall Pollard (11) and sophomore guard Darrell Davis (10) joining Cooke, Smith and McElvene.
“[It was] a really good win for our basketball team,” Miller said. “[We] had a lot of respect for North Florida coming in, watching what they’ve been able to do in their nonconference schedule so far to date.”
The Flyers tried to expose North Florida down low and fed McElvene on the first play of the second half for an easy bucket, which foreshadowed the offensive production during the second-half.
Dayton shot 64 percent (18 of 28) from the field in the second half, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
McElvene, who struggled with foul trouble at the AdvoCare Invitational, played 28 minutes Saturday, one off his season highs.
“His mission in life is to not foul,” Miller said of his 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman. “Because when he’s on the floor, it’s just a very different feeling for the other team. When he’s not on the floor, it’s hard for us right now.”
The Flyers opened up the second half on a 12-2 run and led by as many as 24 points with 10:31 left in the game.
After turning the ball over 22 times against Xavier, Dayton gave it away just 10 times on Saturday.
“That’s big moving forward,” Miller said. “We’re talking about three things right now: Do not turn the ball over, run back on defense and rebound the ball. And I think we checked in on most of them.”
The Flyers next play Wednesday at 9 p.m. in Nashville, Tennessee, against 16th-ranked Vanderbilt on ESPNU.