HUNTINGTON - Forget the 28 3-point attempts Marshall flung, mostly in futility, in its 68-57 loss Wednesday night to Southern Methodist.
OK, don't totally forget them, coach Tom Herrion says. Remember more what the Mustangs did to the Thundering Herd on the other end, and on the glass.
Those failings have the third-year coach searching for something his team has lost, and it isn't a stray kitten.
"You can talk about the offense and the shots and all that, that's fine," Herrion said. "To [allow] 56 percent [SMU shooting], [and be] minus-7 on the glass in the first half ... We did not defend, we did not rebound.
"We've lost our identity, in my opinion, to consistently do that - home, away, neutral. That discourages me greatly."
It also discouraged the 5,407 who showed up at Cam Henderson Center to watch the Mustangs become the final team in the 2005-13 Conference USA lineup to defeat their Herd. Marshall had won a single game every season since both teams moved to C-USA, plus the first round of the 2012 league tournament.
But under Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, SMU (12-10, 2-5) took a 35-23 halftime lead and wasn't really threatened in the second half. The result snapped a three-game losing streak, and saddled Marshall (9-12, 2-4) with its own three-game skid.
As Herrion alluded, the Mustangs shot 55.6 percent in the first half, finishing at 40 percent for the game. Jalen Jones scored 13 of his game-high 19 points and Ryan Manuel had 10 of his 17, picking their way through the Herd defense more often than not.
Whether scoring on the fast break or in the Mustangs' ultra-deliberate half-court sets, both scored on strong drives to the basket, or by shaking their man to get open for a pass, or hitting those all-too-rare midrange jumpers. Neither took a 3-point shot all game.
In fact, their teammates only took six, hitting three. They did quite fine scoring their 30 points in the paint and hitting 15 of 21 from the line, which is actually lower than their conference-leading 76.2 percent.
They started horrendously, committing three turnovers in their first four possessions in spotting Marshall a 5-0 lead. After Dennis Tinnon started another foul foul-shooting night for the Herd with two misses, the Mustangs scored the next six.
A Nick Russell 3-pointer gave SMU the lead for good at 13-11, and the shot ignited an 11-3 run that made it 21-14. Manuel and Jones combined for eight straight to push the lead to 29-19, and Russell hit a fall-away jumper before the buzzer for the 12-point halftime lead.
Manuel started the second half with two free throws to give SMU its biggest lead at 37-23, more than enough to hold off MU's runs. The closest the Herd came was 49-44, which the Mustangs answered with Russell's baseline jumper and Jones' short jumper in the lane.
"We made them guard for 30 seconds," Brown said. "I think when you change sides and move the ball, no matter how good you are defensively there's going to be some breakdowns. This is probably the best we've played offensively all year, in terms of using the clock, getting quality shots.
"And then we rebounded great; they're leading the league in rebounds."
After Tinnon scored on a hard-fought basket to make it 51-46 with 8:41 left, the oft-sputtering Herd defense produced six empty possessions in a row, allowing SMU to push the lead back into double digits. Perhaps the signature moment of the night came with 4:18 left, when the MU defense seemed to part for Russell, who drove down the right baseline for a dunk and a 59-48 SMU lead.
At the other end, the Herd hit just 29.6 percent of its shots in the first half and finished at 33.0 percent. Facing a game-long zone, the Herd settled for 28 3-point attempts, nearly half of the 59 total attempts. With only seven of those bombs going down, it made for a tough night.
"I thought a lot of good shots showed early. A lot were open jump shots; we missed a lot of them," Herrion said. "We didn't attack it enough into gaps or into creases enough, off the dribble. I thought we played a little bit side-to-side against it.
"Twenty-eight, yeah, that's too many. We talked about it as a staff and we'll watch it tonight, and then we leave 13 points on the foul line. A little bit of a broken record; I know you want to talk about our offense, but I'm more discouraged about our defense."
Elijah Pittman and D.D. Scarver scored 15 points apiece, with DeAndre Kane adding 13 points and five assists. Tinnon hauled down 17 boards, but the Herd still got outrebounded 41-35. Marshall scored only 20 points in the paint.
The 10-of-23 outing was the fourth time in the last seven games the Herd failed to hit 50 percent from the line. Here's another crushing stat: The Herd was plus-3 in the turnover column, committing just 11 to SMU's 14.
And still, the Mustangs enjoyed a 21-11 advantage in points off turnovers. It was that kind of night for a Herd team searching for its lost identity.
SMU (12-10, 2-5 C-USA)
M FG FT R A P
Shawn Williams 33 3-6 0-0 5 2 7