Then came the reality check of tougher scheduling.
Ole Miss spanked SMU in Dallas, 75-57, on Jan. 5, and SMU didn't rebound in a Jan. 8 loss to Tulane, 79-70.
In the two losses, junior forward Robert Nyakundi scored a combined 35 points and senior power forward Papa Dia scored 34. That's been a consistent theme for the Mustangs this year, as the pair was averaging 33.5 points per game (17.0 for Dia, 16.5 for Nyakundi) through Jan. 8.
The problem is finding anyone else beyond those two who can be counted on every game to chip in on the offensive side of the ball.
"I would like for a consistent third scorer to emerge," SMU coach Matt Doherty told the Dallas Morning News. "I don't want to put so much pressure on Pop (Dia) and Robert, and that's a big part of our offense. If we execute our offense, then shots will come up for other guys."
Considering there are five players beyond Nyakundi and Dia averaging between 23.7 and 29.0 minutes per game, it is easy to understand Doherty's frustration about the lack of production from the rest of his rotation.
The offensive woes had led SMU to a 68.4-point scoring average through Jan. 8, the lowest total of the season among C-USA teams.
--SMU managed an impressive 54.0 shooting percentage from the floor in a Jan. 8 loss to Tulane, marking the first time this season the Mustangs lost a game when shooting a higher percentage than their opponent. Tulane shot 46.3 percent from the field.
Through that Jan. 8 game, SMU was 6-1 when shooting a higher percentage than its opponent.
--Although SMU led C-USA in free-throw percentage through Jan. 8, hitting 77.8 percent, the team wasn't seeing as much benefit from that high percentage as it would like. Through Jan. 8, the team's 16.5 free-throw attempts per game were the lowest in the league.
--Despite edging Tulane in rebounding, 28-27, in a Jan. 8 loss to the Green Wave, SMU still ranked last in C-USA in rebounding margin at minus-2.6 for the season.
BY THE NUMBERS
0 -- Teams in C-USA shooting better from 3-point range than SMU through Jan. 8. SMU had hit 39.7 percent of its treys through its first 15 games. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, zero was also the number of teams allowing a worse opponents' 3-point percentage through Jan. 8. SMU foes were hitting 40.4 percent of their treys in the first 15 games of the year.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"Two things we can rely on for sure are Rob (Robert Nyakundi) and Pop (Papa Dia). They're playing great basketball." -- SMU senior G Mike Walker, in the Dallas Morning News.