By: Daniel Massa – Sports Editor
The Dayton men’s basketball team took a little while to get going, but eventually turned in a 80-48 drubbing of Alabama Tuesday afternoon at UD Arena.
Dayton (2-0), which extended its home winning streak to 24 games, got its second-straight 21-point performance from a newcomer, this time from redshirt junior guard Charles Cooke in his second game as a Flyer after transferring from James Madison.
The Flyers were down 18-16 exactly halfway through the first half but went on a 24-6 run to end the half, leading 40-24 at the break.
Cooke and junior point guard Scoochie Smith each led the Flyers with 10 first-half points, and Smith added three assists and three steals.
Smith ended the game with 15 points, four steals and three assists.
Smith’s defense, along with the rest of the team’s, helped spark that first-half run and gave the Crimson Tide problems all night. Alabama (1-1) shot just under 30 percent from the field, including 25 percent from 3-point range.
The second half played out much like the latter end of the first half, with the Flyers leading by as much as 34 points with under a minute to go.
Ten players scored for Dayton, four of them in double figures.
Along with Cooke and Smith, redshirt freshman center Steve McElvene notched his first career double-double, scoring 13 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Darrell Davis chipped in 10 points off the bench.
The Flyers’ 32-point was despite the fact that junior forward Kendall Pollard, an Atlantic 10 preseason Third Team member, was mired in foul trouble and only scored two points – on a basket coming with 4:32 remaining in the game, when the result was already all but decided.
Dayton head coach Archie Miller expressed the importance of the improvement he’s seen in the team since its season opener Friday, an 84-53 win over Southeast Missouri State.
“I think the big thing to take away from our team today is we’re starting to play the style, in particular defense, that we’re going to need to play to get to where we want to get to,” Archie Miller said after the game.
Tuesday’s game, part of the ESPN College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon, was televised nationally on ESPN, the first game of the marathon on the network’s main channel. (The previous ones were all on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.)
“I think just with the starting five leading the way, just giving the bench confidence – they see us doing it, they’re like, ‘Okay, we can do this too,'” Smith said of helping those not used to it with handling the national stage.
While team members wouldn’t let themselves say it too much in the days prior to the game, Miller revealed the excitement his team felt about the opportunity.
“We’ve been waiting on this one for a while,” Miller said. “I thought our crowd was tremendous, as usual… We grew up, even from Friday in many ways, in terms of how tough we have to be. Playing against that type of size and that physicality, I thought we matched it.”
A crowd of 12,118 made its way to UD Arena for the unique 1 p.m. start, but it made just as much noise as a usual Saturday night crowd.
The Flyers are next in action Saturday afternoon against William & Mary 2 p.m. at UD Arena. The Tribe already has a road win, beating North Carolina State 85-68 in its season opener.
“Now we’re just going to get ready for a really, really good William & Mary team, which will be about as scary of a team as we’ll play,” Miller said.