PHILADELPHIA — Sometimes, change is for the better.
DeShawn Painter and Dimitri Batten each scored 15 points and Old Dominion defeated Colonial Athletic Association preseason favorite Drexel 78-66 in the first game under interim head coach Jim Corrigan on Thursday night at the DAC.
Corrigan replaced Blaine Taylor, the Monarchs' all-time leader in coaching wins, who was fired Tuesday after ODU's 10th straight loss Monday left them 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the CAA.
"It's been a long year, so many challenges," Corrigan said. "Forget about the coaching change, the season has been really hard. We've never had a season like this and didn't know how to act at times."
The Monarchs looked nothing like that squad, though, against the Dragons (9-14, 5-6). ODU trailed 39-38 with 15 minutes, 38 seconds left before taking control. The Monarchs (3-20, 1-10 CAA) ran off 21 of the next 25 points over a game-changing 7:43 stretch to earn their first league win of the season.
"You get to a point where you almost start expecting to lose close games, but our kids never quit and that was the encouraging thing," Corrigan said. "Through it all they've never quit trying and competing, but tonight we were able to put it all together."
Richard Ross added 14 points for the Monarchs, who shot 47.3 percent (26-for-55) from the field and 50 percent (8-for-16) from the arc. ODU was particularly hot after halftime, hitting 65.2 percent (15-for-23) after the break.
Corrigan, who is in his 19th year as an assistant at ODU, was leading a team for the first time since coaching his alma mater, Bishop McGuinness High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., for four seasons in the mid-1980s.
He praised the Monarchs for their effort.
"I think playing hard led to other things," Corrigan said. "That was because of our effort and intensity. Playing hard created a lot of turnovers and lot of easy baskets, but most importantly it created confidence in our players.
"They started believing as the game went on and the last 10 minutes they really believed. Our players played with great confidence down the stretch and that's something we haven't been doing."
Said Painter, "We were just very motivated. We just wanted to come with a lot of energy and we were just committed to defense. … We knew this was a fresh start. We just had a situation. We just wanted to establish ourselves with a new identity, play with emotion and that's what we did."
Batten had nine points and Painter eight to help ODU to a 30-26 halftime lead. It was just the fourth time this season the Monarchs have been in front at the break.
The Monarchs held Drexel's leading scorer Damion Lee scoreless. Lee entered averaging 18.2 points per game.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun