SMU drops eighth straight conference game

Despite losing their eighth consecutive Conference USA game and being 2-10 in the league, the Mustangs claim to have the confidence they need to win the rest of their games.

Stay calm and carry on.

That is Matt Doherty's message to his basketball team, which sits in last place in Conference USA with a 2-10 record after dropping its eighth consecutive league game Saturday, 73-68 to Marshall.

SMU is now 0-7 all-time versus the Thundering Herd.

In his post-game press conference, though he admitted he wasn't 100 percent certain of the quote, Doherty referenced the saying, "Keep Calm and Carry On," which was a motto used as propaganda by the British government in 1939 at the beginning of World War II, intended to strengthen the morale of the country in wartime.

Despite its 11-16 overall record and horrendous C-USA play, the Mustangs proclaim to have confidence.

"I know people say the season is over," Doherty said. "But we still believe we can win the rest of our games and go to Memphis [for the conference tournament] and win. And if we don't believe that, I shouldn't be coaching, nor should the players be playing."

Doherty added: "The energy in this facility has been nothing but positive and that's the way it's gotta be."

After only scoring 28 points in Wednesday's embarrassing 47-28 loss to UAB, SMU looked to be in a similar funk in the first half against Marshall.

At halftime, the Mustangs were down 25-14, had only made 6 of 22 shot attempts from the field, were 2 of 10 from three-point range and their leading scorer and team leader Robert Nyakundi had zero points.

"Sometimes you don't know what's going through a young man's head," Doherty said. "At one point, I thought he was not well because he missed a shot and just stood there.

"At halftime, I jumped him pretty hard. I told him he's gotta lead and get his out of his behind. I told him, ‘We need you.' It's not like I'm going to bench him, but I needed to shake him up."

The Nyakundi shake-up plus some schematic adjustments, including a full-court press and hurry-up offense of sorts, propelled the Mustangs to out-score Marshall 54-48 in the second half.

Doherty said the tweaks to the game plan gave his team more energy and that he will watch the film and talk to his coaches about implementing more of a mix of a hurry-up and full-court press in the remaining games.

With less than eight minutes to play, SMU started making a comeback. The officials were calling a lot of fouls, and Marshall, who ranks last in C-USA in free throw shooting percentage (61 percent), missed crucial shots from the line down the stretch, which allowed the Mustangs to gain some confidence.

As the clock ticked, the Mustangs inched closer and closer. Then with 3:45 to play, London Giles hit a layup after a give-and-go with Jalen Jones to pull his team within 10 points. It was 62-52, Marshall.

The crowd, which had been moody with the referees all game, let out it's first heartfelt cheer of the day.

Then at the 3:20 mark, Giles picked up a backdoor pass from Leslee Smith and slammed down a dunk to bring the Mustangs within eight.

Then after Nyakundi, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, banked a trey, SMU found itself down just 72-68 with 21.2 seconds left.

But Marshall hit a free throw and SMU couldn't counter with a basket and ultimately ran out of time.

"It was nice to score 54 points in a half when you just scored 28 in a game, but we did lose," Doherty said.

But the thing about this game is that the team did not quit. Down 20 at one point with Wednesday's miserable outing in the back of their minds, the Mustangs appeared to stay calm and carry on.

SMU has four regular season games left before the conference tournament starts on March 7. Doherty is 0-5 in C-USA tournament appearances.

For more SMU coverage, follow Laken Litman on Twitter!

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