Cooke scores 24 as No. 24 Dayton beats George Maso
FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — If there was ever a doubt as to how No. 24 Dayton would respond with its leading scorer coming off the bench for the first time this season, those concerns were erased early as Charles Cooke scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half of the Flyers’ 98-64 victory over George Mason on Saturday night.
Cooke, who averages 15.7 points per game, didn’t enter Saturday until the 16:16 mark in the first half due to violating a team rule but quickly made his mark by knocking down three 3-pointers.
For Cooke, it was just another game, even though the James Madison transfer had started all 20 of his previous appearances for Dayton.
“I think I responded to it well,” Cooke said after scoring at least 20 points for the ninth time this season. “It really doesn’t matter if I come off the bench or not. The game is the game, you still play.”
Coach Archie Miller, who said after the win that Cooke would return to the starting lineup, also wasn’t surprised by his junior guard’s response.
“We had a good conversation this morning,” Miller said. “I expected him to be ready to roll when he came off the bench. He looked at me and said, ‘I’ll be ready.’”
Dayton (19-3, 9-1) won its seventh straight game and moved into a tie atop the Atlantic 10 standings after Virginia Commonwealth’s loss earlier in the day to George Washington.
Seven different Dayton players knocked down a 3-pointer. The Flyers hit a season high 14 treys en route to their highest scoring output of the season. Dyshawn Pierre scored 15 points, Kendall Pollard had 13 and Scoochie Smith and John Crosby added 10 apiece. Dayton, which scored its most points on the road since 1973, shot a season-high 63 percent and made 39 field goals.
“I think we were just clicking on all cylinders tonight,” Smith said. “Everybody shared the ball. I know everybody made the extra pass and everybody was ready to shoot.”
Smith led the Flyers with eight rebounds as Dayton held a 41 to 24 edge on the glass.
Otis Livingston led George Mason (8-15, 2-8) with 21 points. The Patriots played without leading scorer Marquise Moore (left ankle) for the first time this season. Moore, who leads George Mason with 12.3 points per game, had started the Patriots’ previous 22 games.
“They played like a hungry team,” George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said of Dayton, which re-entered the rankings after a monthlong absence. “They didn’t play like a team that was trying to defend a national ranking. They played like a team that was ticked off they weren’t ranked higher.”
Dayton center Steve McElvene missed his first game of the season with an illness. McElvene had started 15 of the Flyers’ 21 games, averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game.
George Mason could get no closer than 55-39 with 15:54 left in the second half on a Jalen Jenkins free throw as the Patriots gave up a season high 98 points.
Dayton: The Flyers are 9-0 when scoring at least 80 points this season. Last season Dayton scored over 80 just twice in 36 games.
George Mason: The Patriots are now 0-5 in conference home games this season.
SUPER BOWL EVE
After guiding the Washington Redskins to their first playoff appearance since 2012, coach Jay Gruden was sitting courtside in Fairfax, Virginia, while most of the NFL world is focused on the Super Bowl. Gruden’s son Joey is a junior walk-on guard for Dayton. The younger Gruden played the final minute in the Flyers blowout win, attempting his first collegiate field goal, which he missed.
Dayton hosts Duquesne on Tuesday.
George Mason visits Rhode Island on Tuesday.