The Dayton Flyers received their Atlantic 10 championship rings Thursday after a film session. Senior guard Charles Cooke had forgotten about the rings, but when he heard about them, he wanted his immediately.
“They’re really nice,” Cooke said. “It’s a nice fat rock.”
“Where you do wear a ring like that?” someone asked.
“I don’t know,” Cooke said. “I guess when you’re chilling somewhere on the beach. There’s a lot of beaches near my house. I love the sun.”
Cooke loves the heat, and he brought the fire Friday in Dayton’s season opener, scoring a career-high 31 points in a 96-68 victory over Austin Peay. Dayton won its 12th straight season opener.
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Cooke had 24 points in the first half, two off his career high, as Dayton put to rest any worries about a slow start.
The Flyers trailed Findlay 21-6 in an exhibition game Nov. 4. They scored the first six points against Austin Peay and led 16-4 after six minutes. Cooke scored 10 of the first 16.
“We’ve been starting really sluggish lately,” Cooke said. “I just wanted to do what I could to give my team a boost, to help the team out as much as I could. We took over early as a team. We applied the pressure. They got a few buckets, but not too much, not as much as in the exhibition game. We did a pretty good job starting the game off.”
Cooke made 11 of 17 shots from the field, 5 of 10 3-pointers and 4 of 5 free throws. He added four rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 28 minutes.
Cooke is the first Dayton player to score 30 points in a game since Chris Wright scored 30 on Dec. 18, 2010, against Western Carolina.
“He’s in a good way right now,” Dayton coach Archie Miller said. “He’s had good practices. If I would look at his box score through the first three games — the scrimmage, the exhibition and then tonight — he’s been pretty consistent, and we’re going to need him to be that way. He scored tonight, but more important is how effective he was on defense. We’ve got to have him rebound the ball. He’s got to do a lot for us. He’s going to get everyone’s best shot moving forward.”
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Cooke was one of five Dayton players in double figures. Darrell Davis made 4 of 7 3-pointers and scored 17 points. Josh Cunningham had 13 points and six rebounds in his UD debut.
Scoochie Smith had 11 points and six assists. Sam Miller added 10 points and six rebounds.
Dayton shot 54.4 percent from the floor and held Austin Peay, which won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament last season to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, to 39.3 percent shooting. Guard Josh Robinson scored 26 for the Governors.
Dayton set the tone on defense. Austin Peay committed four turnovers in the first six minutes.
“It’s a good opening win,” Miller said. “You’re always nervous at the beginning of the year. You can never explain the feeling until you finally get out there and get going. We had a much different intensity level coming out of the gates. That got us going.”
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