Dayton Basketball: Dyshawn Pierre’s return has the Flyers soaring

The Dayton basketball season has taken an upswing since the return of Dyshawn Pierre.

Transfer Charles Cooke helped keep the team strong until Dyshawn Pierre returned. With the star forward back in the lineup, Dayton is coming into its own.

Pierre, Dayton’s top returning scorer and rebounder from its 2014-15 team that reached the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32, missed the Flyers’ first 11 games after being suspended for the fall semester due to an alleged sexual assault. Dayton was still pegged to finish first in the Atlantic 10, but the team needed somebody to step up following Jordan Sibert‘s graduation and Pierre’s suspension.

In Pierre’s absence, the Flyers fared very well thanks in large part to James Madison transfer Charles Cooke. The junior posted a team-leading 14.4 points per game and trailed only 6-foot-11 freshman Steve McElvene with 6.5 rebounds per contest during Pierre’s suspension. Dayton started the year 9-2 with wins over Iowa, Vanderbilt, Alabama and Monmouth with Cooke leading the way.

Early on, Pierre’s transition into the rotation wasn’t smooth. Through his first four games, he averaged 9.5 points on 39.3% shooting overall and 26.7 from beyond the 3-point arc. A 3-for-7 shooting night from Pierre combined with a poor defensive effort from Dayton as a whole resulted in a 61-57 defeat at La Salle that sticks out like a sore thumb on an otherwise excellent NCAA Tournament resume.

Since the disaster at La Salle, Dyshawn Pierre has been on fire. In those games, he’s averaged 15.2 points per game on 50% shooting while knocking down 47.5% of his 3-pointers. He’s also upped his rebounding numbers in his last nine outings to 7.7 per game.

Dayton Flyers guard Charles Cooke (4) helped the team overcome the graduation of Jordan Siebert and the suspension of Dyshawn Pierre. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Dayton Flyers guard Charles Cooke (4) helped the team overcome the graduation of Jordan Sibert and the suspension of Dyshawn Pierre. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

An interesting development with Pierre’s return is that Cooke is actually seeing his scoring numbers increase. He’s averaging 17.5 points per game with Pierre in the rotation, bringing his season average up to 16.3. He’s also brought his shooting percentages percentage up from 40% overall to 48% and from 37.5% on 3-pointers to 44.6%.

It makes a lot of sense that Cooke would shoot higher percentages as defenses are forced to account for Pierre’s presence. What doesn’t immediately make sense is that he’s seen a substantial increase in points per game after a player who regularly takes 10+ shots per game is inserted into the lineup.

A big part of the explanation is that a chunk of the minutes Pierre gets previously went to the 268-pound Steve McElvene. McElvene played as many minutes as his foul situation permitted during the suspension, averaging 23 per game. Since Pierre’s return, he’s seeing just 16.1 minutes per game.

Taking out the team’s only true big man and replacing him with a skilled veteran forward allows Dayton to up the tempo. This results in an increase in both the possessions per game and the opportunities for easy points. So far, the result has been an average margin of victory that’s over 4.4 points per game higher than when Pierre was suspended.

In the long run, Dyshawn Pierre’s suspension could be a positive for the Dayton Flyers. Not only did the team manage to avoid bad losses while its star was out, but it came away with resume boosting victories. Additionally, the 31.5 minutes that Pierre is playing since his return were able to be given to less experienced players.

Steve McElvene in particular will be more prepared for the increased role he’ll be asked to play in March when Dayton is forced to match up with power conference programs featuring more size than you’ll find in this year’s Atlantic 10.

Can Dayton make another deep tournament run? Let us know in the comments!