GAME NOTES: The SMU Mustangs attempt to turn around their awful play of late, as they welcome the Marshall Thundering Heard to Moody Coliseum in Dallas for a Conference USA tussle.
While Marshall isn't considered to be a top contender in C-USA at the moment, it remains within striking distance of the league leaders as it owns a respectable 15-10 overall record and a 6-5 mark in conference play. The Herd appeared to be spiraling out of control, having lost six of their previous seven games before defeating East Carolina last Saturday, 78-68.
In SMU's first 18 games, it looked as though the team was on its way to a respectable season, going 10-8. Since then however, the Mustangs have taken a nose-dive, losing seven of their last eight to fall to 11-15 overall and they hold sole possession of last place in C-USA with a 2-9 mark. The troubles for the Mustangs hit a new low in Wednesday's loss to UAB as they fell in embarrassing fashion, 47-28.
Marshall has owned the short all-time series, winning all six matchups against SMU, though it's been very competitive as five of the six games have been decided by three points or less.
Marshall put together its best offensive showing in nearly two months in the recent win over East Carolina, scoring 78 points on 54 percent shooting overall and 10-of-20 from three-point range. Damier Pitts added to an already stellar campaign by pacing the team with a season-high 27 points. Pitts tallies 14.1 ppg and ranks third in C-USA in assists with 4.6 apg. DeAndre Kane has been the Herds' best performer across the board, averaging 15.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 3.4 apg and 1.5 spg. Dennis Tinnon adds 9.1 ppg on a team-best 51.5 percent shooting from the floor, and he rips down 9.9 rpg, good for third in the conference. Though the Marshall defense has allowed 65.6 ppg to its opponents, it ranks last in the conference in terms of field goal percentage defense (.448).
SMU's 28-point performance on Wednesday was the second-lowest point total for any Division I program this season and it is the worst showing for an SMU squad since logging 26 points against TCU in 1956. The Mustangs shot a pathetic 17.4 percent from the field and put up less than 40 points for the second straight game. They now rank next-to-last in the conference in scoring offense (59.4 ppg) and dead-last in field goal percentage (.418). Robert Nyakundi has been SMU's best player, tallying 15 ppg and 4.9 rpg while putting up great percentages from the field (.489), three-point range (.429) and the free-throw line (.806). The senior struggled along with the rest of his team in Wednesday's loss, shooting 3-of-9 from the floor for nine points. London Giles is the only other Mustang averaging double figures in scoring with 10.4 ppg. SMU sports a solid turnover margin (+1.81), but ranks last in the league in rebounding margin (-4.7).
SMU proved with its dismal performance on Wednesday that home court advantage doesn't mean much if you can't score, and the Thundering Herd put up more points in their last game than the Mustangs have tallied in their previous two combined.