DAYTON — Charles Cooke sat through a transfer season last year when a Dayton team that lacked depth won 27 games, including two in the NCAA Tournament. This year the Flyers have depth, Cooke is a starter and the Flyers are 2-0.
Cooke scored 21 points, was part of an aggressive defense effort and led Dayton to an 80-48 victory over Alabama and new coach Avery Johnson on Tuesday.
Dayton broke from an 18-18 tie to take control with a 22-6 run over the final 7:43 of the first half. Cooke sparked the run with a 3-pointer, and Scoochie Smith turned a diving steal across half-court into a fast-break layup for Kyle Davis.
Cooke, a 6-foot-5 junior transfer from James Madison, scored seven points last week in his Dayton debut. Against Alabama, Cooke was almost perfect. He made 6 of 9 shots, including 2 of 3 3-point attempts, and all 7 of his free throws.
“That’s more of the Charles that you see every day in practice, attacking the rim in transition, taking shots, making shots,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “My vision of him today was on defense, guarding the ball, playing big on the perimeter. His quickness level was really good.”
Smith added 15 points, freshman center Steve McElvene 13 and Darrell Davis 10 off the bench for the Flyers (2-0), who won their 24th straight at home.
“We’ve got a really good depth of players on this team, and it’s really enjoyable to watch,” Cooke said. “We’re just trying to progress and get better.”
McElvene is 6-foot-11 and gives the Flyers a post presence they haven’t had in recent seasons. He had 11 rebounds, blocked two shots and altered several others.
“He has a big presence, he has great hands, he has a good touch around the basket and he’s only going to get better,” Miller said.
Alabama (1-1) under former NBA coach Johnson, struggled to get good shots against Dayton’s man-to-man defense and shot 30 percent. Riley Norris led the Tide with 9 points.
“I would do it 10 times over again,” Johnson said of choosing to play at Dayton, which has made two straight NCAA appearances. “Because think about what’s going to happen in SEC play. We’ve got seven or eight really talented, terrific teams, and then everybody else is capable of winning. We’ve got to schedule real games. That’s what this game was about.”
Alabama: Johnson takes over a young and inexperienced Alabama team. He had a 16-year NBA career and played on the San Antonio championship team in 1999. He coached the Dallas Mavericks and Brooklyn Nets over a span of seven seasons. He was the NBA coach of the year when he led the Mavericks to the 2006 finals.
Dayton: Dayton’s depth was on display from the early minutes. After having only six or seven players to call on most of last year, head coach Archie Miller played a 10-man rotation. Kendall Pollard, who averaged 12.7 points last year and is expected to be a top scorer this year, didn’t score until there was 4:32 left and finished with 2 points.
Dayton improved to 27-11 over the past nine seasons against Power Five programs. The Flyers have beaten SEC foes Ole Miss (five times), Alabama (three times), Auburn (twice) and Texas A&M. The Flyers can add to that resume this month and next with games at Iowa and Vanderbilt, a home game with Arkansas and a possible meeting with Notre Dame in a holiday tournament.