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Dayton cruises to win over ETSU

The Flyers handled the challenge at home with a 75-61 victory.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Dayton vs Syracuse
Charles Cooke provided the offensive firepower for Dayton on Saturday.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Something had to give on Saturday when ETSU visited Dayton.

Both teams entered the day searching for a quality win. The two schools had just one win over a KenPom top-100 squad between them: Dayton’s win at Alabama on Nov. 15. Since then, the Flyers dropped their other two opportunities against top-100 competition, losing to St. Mary’s and Nebraska. Meanwhile, ETSU missed its lone chance at a top-100 win in a loss to UNC Wilmington.

Furthermore, both teams came in riding winning streaks. The Buccaneers had won five straight games, albeit against relatively weak competition. The last two wins in that streak came against non-Div. I opponents, and the Buccaneers actually struggled to a five point win in one of those games against Lees McRae.

Dayton had played a bit tougher competition to build its own four game winning streak, but the Flyers were also coming off a win over a non-Div. opponent.

Both teams were in need of a quality win, and it was Dayton that came out the aggressor. The Flyers forced 12 ETSU turnovers in the first half and did an excellent job running the floor on the fast break. Charles Cooke led the early charge, scoring 12 points in the half to go along with four blocks. At the halfway point, Dayton had opened up a 37-25 lead.

The second half was more of the same.

ETSU struggled to get their potent offense going against a quick, tough Dayton defense. The Buccaneers entered the game as one of the best shooting teams in the country, and led the nation in two-point field goal percentage. But the Flyers held them to just 36 percent shooting.

T.J. Cromer exemplified the Buccaneers struggles. He had scored in double figures every game this season, but finished Saturday’s game with just 4 points on 1-of-11 shooting.

Cooke finished with 24 points to lead all scorers and Kendall Pollard had double-double (12 points, 12 rebounds) in his third game back from injury. The Flyers improve to 7-2 take a week off before travelling to Chicago to take on Northwestern at the United Center.

For ETSU, Desonta Bradford and David Burrell each finished with 12 points. The Buccaneers drop to 7-2 and, while still boasting an impressive record, continue to look for a signature win. They’ll get chances at two struggling SEC teams before SoCon play begins, with games against Mississippi State (road) and Tennessee (home).