Despite the turmoil of the past week, Old Dominion appears to play a little more loosely and confidently than in its first 22 games. This is part observation, part statistical.
The Monarchs are a bit more freewheeling and aggressive on offense, cohesive and responsible on defense. ODU is 1-2 since Blaine Taylor's abrupt dismissal as head coach last Tuesday, with a win at Drexel, an overtime loss versus Northeastern, and a two-point loss at Delaware, all in a span of five days.
Interim head coach Jim Corrigan has no qualms with the Monarchs' effort.
"I think we've played really, really hard, and when you play hard, you can make up for mistakes," Corrigan said.
Statistical indications come from shot differential in the past three games. ODU averaged 3.5 more shot attempts than opponents in the first 22 games. In the past three games, the Monarchs are plus-40 – an average of 13.3 more attempts.
Some of that is a function of a bit more offensive freedom, Corrigan said, some the Monarchs' ferocious offensive rebounding.
"I've told them that we'll take a good shot any time," Corrigan said. "If they have a good shot, a good look, to go ahead and shoot the ball and then we'll go try to rebound it. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. We're not really making any dramatic changes, but I do want them playing aggressive. We've talked about being aggressive and playing with confidence."
ODU attempted 22 more shots than Northeastern and logged 24 second-chance points in last Saturday's 79-74 loss. That helped overcome a paint-chipping 1-for-26 shooting performance from 3-point range.
"I don't have a problem with them taking the vast majority of shots we've taken," Corrigan said. "It's more of a tweak than a major change. We have gotten more shots than our opponents, and that's one way to put yourself in a position to win games."
ODU attempted seven more shots than Drexel, which, given the Dragons' deliberate offensive pace and defensive stickiness, easily translates to a double-figure advantage against most teams. The Monarchs had 11 more shots than Delaware on Monday, building a 10-point lead that they were unable to hold.
DeShawn Painter and Dimitri Batten have taken to the change. Painter has 52 points and 32 rebounds in the past three games, while Batten has 55 points in those three games, including a career-high 25 against Northeastern.
Painter is running the floor and defending, while expanding his offensive repertoire. Batten, too, has expanded his offensive game.
"He can score points and he can score them in bunches," Corrigan said. "Early in the year, he was a little bit one-dimensional, in that he'd shoot 3s and that was kind of it. Now, he's taking the ball to the basket a lot more and he's being more effective and he's mixing it up. Rather than taking a contested 3, he drives to the basket and gets a layup. … He's rounding out his offensive game and he's becoming a better defender."
Opening win aside, results under Corrigan aren't dramatically different. The Monarchs (3-22, 1-12 CAA) lost seven games by five points or less and played several other close games before Taylor was fired. They have an OT loss and a two-point loss in their past two games. But as Corrigan points out, they continue to battle despite the record and despite the fact that there's no conference tournament to point toward.
Corrigan asks the players to straddle the line between being aggressive and being smart. After three games in five days, the Monarchs don't play again until hosting William and Mary on Saturday.