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A-10 Takeaways: Cooke injury, gritty VCU win highlight opening night

Also: News flash, St. Bonaventure can score.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Dayton
Uh oh, Charles Cooke.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A-10 play opened Friday with all but two of the league’s teams in action. Duquesne beat Fordham and Rhode Island blew out Saint Louis, but that’s probably not what you came here for.

Here are three main takeaways from a busy Friday:

Cooke injury clouds Dayton win

Kendall Pollard had his best offensive game (20 points) in over a year in Dayton’s win over La Salle. That may turn out to be sadly ironic for the Flyers. Pollard - whose wrist and leg injuries delayed the start of his season - now has another teammate facing injury questions. And he’s an important one.

Charles Cooke, likely the best two-way player in the A-10, fell hard after being fouled at the rim by Jordan Price with under four minutes left. He had to be helped off the court with an apparent back injury, and his coach had some scary words after the game.

“I suspect he could be out a little bit,” Archie Miller told the Dayton Daily News.

That tempered what was a nice win for Dayton. The Flyers throttled a good La Salle offense, particularly because Cooke frustrated Price throughout the game, helping to hold him to just four points.

The injury comes at a particularly bad time, as the Flyers get St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island next. Should he be sidelined, his defense will be sorely missed against players like Jaylen Adams, Matt Mobley, E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell.

Glasses half-full all around for VCU, George Mason

The Rams turned it over 21 times, as has been all too common this season. They also shot just 23.1 percent from three. But a mature VCU team left Fairfrax with a 73-64 win, ending George Mason’s nine-game winning streak.

The Rams dominated the paint, according to plan, against a Patriots’ team that gives significant minutes to just one big man. They were also calm as George Mason made a final push late in the second half, leaning on JeQuan Lewis (26 points) to close out a win. It hasn’t always been pretty for VCU this season, but a game like this proves they’re not going anywhere in the league hierarchy.

On the other side, the Patriots can take positives out of the loss.

“Today at shoot-around, they were skittish,” Dave Paulsen told the Washington Post after the game. “They were too amped up. Kind of like my kids the night before Christmas. And didn’t show a level of maturity.”

Very few people expected George Mason to play a game of this magnitude this season. At one point in the first half, it seemed like the moment would swallow the young team. But the Patriots kept the game competitive, despite some shaky play that led to just 0.88 points per possession.

Sophomores Otis Livingston and Jaire Grayer, who both scored in double figures, are in pivotal roles for this team. This was their first “big” game at George Mason. As they grow, so will a Patriots team that looks like its non-conference bonanza wasn’t a fluke.

St. Bonaventure’s offense must be feared

As you can see above, Jaylen Adams can score from anywhere on the court, even when he’s well-guarded. Adams (29 points, 9-15 FG) and Matt Mobley (23 points, 6-13 FG) led the Bonnies to a good opening win at UMass, in a game that saw Jay Ayeni and Brison Gresham ejected after a first half skirmish.

Coming into the game, the Bonnies had allowed teams to post effective field goal percentages of 55.5 percent or better in four of the last five games. This included a torching courtesy of Canisius in a disappointing 106-101 loss last week.

Against UMass, the Bonnies struggled to contain Rashaan Holloway, and post scorers will likely give them fits all season. But they were better against the Minutemen and and not phased by the UMass press. The Bonnies defense will likely bite them again, yet even marginal improvements will put them in any game the rest of league play.