Friday, January 17, 2014

Lights-out shooting boosts ODU

Galaisha Goodhope
The number leaps off the page every time we look at the boxscore - 60.4.

That was Old Dominion's shooting percentage in Wednesday's 92-82 victory at Southern Mississippi, a win the Lady Monarchs hopes pushes the reset button on their debut season in Conference USA.

Now, 60-percent shooting games are extremely rare. In fact, it's just the third time in the last 10-plus seasons an Old Dominion team has cracked the 60-percent barrier. On both other occasions, Towson was the victim - on March 8, 2012 in a 72-58 victory over the Tigers in the CAA Tournament first round; and on Feb. 15, 2007 in an 82-42 thumping of Towson at the Constant Center. (Note to you lottery players out there: In each of the three games, ODU's shooting percentage was exactly 60.4 percent).

Heading into the Southern Miss game, this season's Lady Monarchs were shooting 39.5 percent, had only reached 50 percent once (50.9 percent on Nov. 24 in an 89-82 loss to Marist) and had shot less than 40 percent 10 times.

So what happened in Hattiesburg? Well, we didn't see the game, but we know that forwards Shae Kelley and Chelisa Painter attack the rim and rarely shoot from the perimeter. That these two players accounted for more than half of ODU's field-goal attempts (25 of 48) suggests the Lady Monarchs declined settling for jumpers and were aggressively seeking high-percentage looks. So, too, does the fact that ODU attempted a season-high 39 free throws.

It also helped that all five starters were feeling it. Painter, in particular (a season-high 17 points on a season-high 13 field goal attempts), imposed herself on the proceedings in a way the Lady Monarchs would clearly love to see going forward. Of course, Kelley was Kelley (25 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks). But Tiffany Minor did her thing, too (14 points, 4 of 6 3-pointers), as did Stephanie Gardner (11 points).

And then there was Galaisha Goodhope. After last Saturday's 30-point loss to Tulane, normally ultra-positive ODU head coach Karen Barefoot made it clear she wasn't happy with the play of her point guards. And on her radio show Tuesday, Barefoot candidly spoke about how Goodhope was capable of better performances, and that she'd expressed as much to the sophomore in a long phone conversation the day after the game.

The tough love approach appears to have worked, as Goodhope responded to essentially being called out with her best all-around performance of the season - 15 points, 6 assists, 6 steals and 5 rebounds in 38 minutes.

So what should fans expect when the Lady Monarchs (8-9, 1-2 Conference USA) return to the Constant Center Saturday to take on Florida Atlantic (11-5, 1-2)? Well, probably nothing like 60.4 percent shooting. Even UConn doesn't live in that neighborhood. But if the aggressive, confident approach that led to that number is on display, ODU women's hoops figures to be a whole lot more interesting - and competitive - than it looked seven days ago.

Note: Saturday's 7 p.m. game also serves as Alumni Night for the ODU program. Click here for a list of the former players expected to be on hand.

A few extras

- Division I-wide, there have been 58 times a team shot 60 percent or better through games of Jan. 16 out of 5,605 opportunities. So essentially, teams shoot less than 60 percent 98.9 percent of the time. Once in every 100 occasions, what ODU did occurs.

- Hard to believe a team can shoot 60 percent and lose, but it's happened twice in the 58 times this season.  San Diego State fell to run-and-gun Sacramento State and Maine lost by a point to Yale despite lights-out shooting.

- San Diego State shot a Division I season-high 65.9 percent (for games involving two D-I teams) in a 71-67 victory over UC Santa Barbara on Dec. 30.

- This season's lowest field goal percentage was turned in by Alcorn State, which shot 13.5 percent in a 76-31 loss to Michigan on Dec. 28. Five weeks earlier, poor Alcorn had been held to 15.2-percent shooting in a 112-28 loss to Illinois.

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