SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) After a sluggish start, South Dakota State dug in, took care of the ball, and hung on to defeat Omaha and win the Summit League championship for the fourth time.
Mike Daum scored 24 of his 37 points in the second half to help the Jackrabbits beat the Mavericks 79-77 on Tuesday night.
Omaha led with 4:43 left to play, but Daum, who was the league's player of the year and tournament MVP, took over. He scored seven straight to give South Dakota State a 73-72 lead with 3:30 left. The Jackrabbits wouldn't relinquish it. Omaha had a chance for the win at the buzzer, but Tra-Deon Hollins' 3-pointer rimmed out.
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Daum went 14-for-24 from the floor and continued his torrid scoring pace, averaging 29.3 points per game in SDSU's three conference tournament wins.
''He's just a heck of a player. He's just talented and the run a lot of sets for him. You have to be on your toes the entire game,'' Omaha's Tre'Sahwn Thurman said of Daum. ''You have to be communicating and you have to know what's coming. He's able to create for other guys and able to create mismatches. He's just a tough guy to guard. I wish him well in the NCAA tournament.''
The Jackrabbits struggled early with nine turnovers in the first nine minutes. Omaha took advantage of it, building its biggest lead of the game at 16-7 when Tre'Shawn Thurman hit a 3-pointer. But fortunately for SDSU, the Jackrabbits were 8-for-9 from the field over that span, keeping the SDSU in the game.
''It's not typical. It's not who we've been,'' SDSU coach T.J. Otzelberger said of the early turnovers. ''We don't need to be panicked, but I think we came out a little bit tight. We need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. I think this team has continued to grow and find different ways to win.''
After the early turnovers, SDSU (18-16) settled down and built its biggest lead of the game, leading 37-31 at halftime. But Omaha went on a 9-0 run to open the second half, and the back-and-forth battle in the second half was set. The second half featured eight lead changes and seven ties.
Omaha, in its first conference championship game in school history, had four players in double figures with Thurman leading the way with 21 points. The loss breaks a five-game win streak for the Mavericks.
LOW SEEDS ADVANCE:
The Summit League championship game between No. 3 seeded Omaha and No. 4 seeded SDSU marks the first time since 1993, and only the fifth time in history, that neither the No. 1 nor No. 2 seed appeared in the title contest.
The Jackrabbits outrebounded Omaha 44-25 including a 16-9 advantage on the offensive end. After opening the game with nine turnovers in the first nine minutes, SDSU took care of the ball the rest of the way, turning it over ten more times.
South Dakota State clinches an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. This is SDSU's fourth trip to the tournament. The Jackrabbits have won four of the last six Summit League tournament championships.
Omaha finishes the season with a record of 18-14. The Mavericks have never have never secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament.