Mike Daum is no secret anymore.
When you put up the kind of the numbers the forward did his first two years at South Dakota State, opponents are going to game plan around you every night.
Daum’s OK with that. Solving that game-within-a-game chess match is helping him become a more complete player.
“I’ve just seen a lot more harder coverages. It’s always fun for me to see challenges like that, stay on the move and figure out different ways to help our offense get going,” the Kimball, Nebraska, native said. “I know teams put a ton of focus on me. I just want to do whatever I can to help my team win.”
UNO will turn its attention to the 6-foot-9 Daum on Saturday as the Mavericks host the Jackrabbits at 7 p.m. at Baxter Arena.
Daum comes into Baxter averaging 22.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game this season. In his 2-1/2 years with the Jackrabbits, he’s averaging 20.7 points and is fifth on the school’s all-time scoring list.
“Everyone’s seen him seven or eight times now. You’d think he’d be averaging a lot less than (22.5), but he’s not because he’s a really good player,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said after Tuesday’s win over Doane.
And Daum is coming off one of his best games of the season. In Wednesday’s Summit League opener at North Dakota State, Daum matched his season-high with 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in an 87-80 win. He went 16 of 16 from the free-throw line.
It was Daum’s 18th double-double in 86 games at SDSU. It also was the ninth time he’s had a double-double while scoring at least 30 points, which broke a tie with former Creighton All-American Doug McDermott for most 30-point double-doubles in the NCAA over the past eight seasons.
But what is making this season so enjoyable for Daum is the Jackrabbits’ number in the win column.
As a sophomore, the Jackrabbits made the NCAA tournament by winning the Summit League tournament, but they finished with an 18-17 record. This season, they’re off to a 13-5 start, having won six of their last seven.
“I think we’re playing very well as a team. We have a group of guys that want to share the ball and play for each other. We don’t have any selfish agendas,” Daum said.
“We really do have something special here that I try not to take for granted. Guys are brought together for a reason. Our camaraderie is one of a kind and I believe we’re closer together as a team on and off the court than anyone in the country. I really do believe that.”
On the court this season, Daum’s numbers are comparable to last season when he was the Summit player of the year and had one of the best seasons in program history.
He averaged 25.1 points per game, breaking SDSU’s single-season scoring record. He scored 30 or more points 12 times, including a 51-point performance against IPFW. He shot 51.4 percent from the field, led the team with 79 3-pointers and tied the school record with 251 made free throws.
So what does a guy work on in the offseason after putting up monster numbers?
“Main thing I worked on was just kind of my body and physicality,” said Daum, who added that for the first time he’s attending yoga classes during the season. “I knew in the offseason that just being in shape would be a big thing. I knew my body would be going through the wear and tear of the season.”
Daum’s played at least 33 minutes in eight of the team’s 18 games. On Dec. 15 during a double-overtime loss at Colorado, he played 48 minutes, finishing with 37 points and 12 rebounds.
Fitness, though, wasn’t Daum’s only offseason priority.
“I wanted to work on being a better defender and having more of a presence on the defensive end,” said Daum, whose 16 blocked shots this season are a career high. “Our guards are told this year to pressure more so they don’t give up 3s, so I want those guys to have trust in me that I’ll be there to protect the paint.”
Daum finished with 33 points in an 88-84 SDSU win when the Jackrabbits played in Omaha last January. And although he’s six hours from his hometown of Kimball, Daum expects to bring a rooting section to Baxter Arena on Saturday night. He said his parents, sister, other family members and friends plan to be in attendance.
» South Dakota State has won eight of the 11 meetings, including four of five in Omaha, since UNO moved to Division I.
» UNO is 5-0 at home this season, but two of its five wins are against non-Division I teams.
» The Jackrabbits are ranked 15th in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Poll, second among Summit League teams.
» SDSU ranks 10th nationally in 3-point percentage (41.8).
» Guard Daniel Norl has averaged 20 points while shooting 65.2 percent from the floor in the past two games for the Mavs.