BROOKINGS, S.D. — UNO fell short in its bid to grab the outright Summit League lead.
The Mavericks, however, realized they’re not so far behind conference favorite South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits (17-6) outlasted UNO 83-73 Saturday in a matchup of conference co-leaders at Frost Arena, getting a big performance from Nebraska native Mike Daum to move to 7-1 in the league.
The senior from Kimball, who passed former Tennessee great Allan Houston to climb to 17th place on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list, collected 33 points, 16 rebounds and five assists while improving to 6-2 in his career against UNO. Daum tormented the Mavs, playing all 40 minutes, then praised them after.
“Omaha is a hard-playing team,” he said. “They’re good. They’re going to be good the rest of the Summit League and going to be a tough team throughout the rest of the time. This was such a hard-fought game.”
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UNO, fresh off a come-from-behind win at Purdue Fort Wayne on Thursday, led the Jackrabbits by seven midway through the first half. Consecutive dunks by Daum, one on a baseline drive and another on a fast break, then flipped the momentum. SDSU reeled off a 12-0 run and led from then on.
But the Mavs (12-9), picked to finish eighth in the Summit in the preseason, never went away. They were within five midway through the second half and were down only seven with a little more than five minutes left. Skylar Flatten’s 3-pointer shortly after that, late in the shot clock, essentially sealed it.
UNO coach Derrin Hansen kept the loss in perspective. The Mavs had entered the game on a five-game win streak and are 6-2 in the Summit at the halfway point and sit only a game out of first.
“We’re happy with where we’re at, but our team is the kicker here. And they’re just not satisfied. We know we can better,” he said. “All things being equal, our guys should be proud of what they’ve done. But what I like about the makeup of our team is they aren’t satisfied with where they’re at.”
UNO will get another crack at the Jackrabbits in Omaha next month. The Mavs don’t play again until they host North Dakota at Baxter Arena next Sunday to open the second half of the Summit schedule.
Senior captain Mitch Hahn, who tallied 14 points and 15 rebounds Saturday, said he expects more.
“We’re not satisfied with what we we’ve seen and what we can do,” he said. “We can be a lot better than what we played so far. We’ve had stretches of not playing the best offense that we can lately.”
The Mavs struggled with turnovers and missed shots during the first-half surge by SDSU. And they attempted 31 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, their most in a conference game to date.
KJ Robinson, who kept the Mavs close by scoring 16 of his 23 points in the second half, and JT Gibson each hit four shots from long range. UNO went just 12 for 31 from deep, yet stayed in the game.
“No matter what the score was, we continued to compete,” Robinson said. “We continued to dig into the lead that they had. We did a good job of staying together and competing.”
Daum was the difference, although the Jackrabbits also got 19 points from David Jenkins. Daum had an off-shooting night — the 6-foot-9 forward was 2 for 9 from 3 and 3 for 7 at the line — but still ended with 33.
“He’s still finding ways to impact the game in a lot of ways,” South Dakota State coach TJ Otzelberger said. “He had 33 and 16. We’re talking about (how) he didn’t shoot it quite as well as he normally does.”
Daum has been problematic for UNO throughout his career. His length and multi-faceted offensive game have led to some big numbers against the Mavs. He has averaged 32 points over their last six meetings.
SDSU limited UNO’s leading scorer, Zach Jackson, to five points on 1-of-8 shooting. The Mavs also played without his backup, freshman guard Zach Thornhill, sidelined with a yet-to-be-disclosed injury.
The Jackrabbits led for more than 30 minutes in the game, but UNO certainly had their attention.
“I didn’t think they were going to be as good as they were,” Jenkins said. “But this league, this year, is kind of different. Everybody is beating everybody. It’s a good and bad thing . ... It makes us stay locked in.”
The loss was UNO’s first on the road since Dec. 8. But the Mavs felt they learned some things from it.
“We’ll get back to the drawing board and get better at the things that we need to,” Robinson said.