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Summit League Notebook: The Dons and Jacks are pulling away

It’s beginning to look like a two horse race.

NCAA Basketball: South Dakota State at Nevada Ed Andersen-USA TODAY Sports

Purdue Fort Wayne was on the verge of running away with the Summit League. The Mastodons had won six in a row, including their first four in Summit League play.

But not so fast.

The 3’s stopped falling and the turnovers were plentiful when South Dakota hammered Purdue Fort Wayne, 87-73 over the weekend. Now it’s back again to a two-horse race between South Dakota State and the Mastodons for the top spot in the Summit League.

Sure, Omaha, Oral Roberts and South Dakota are in striking distance, but the regular season champion will be one of two teams: South Dakota State or Purdue Fort Wayne.

And after two games where South Dakota State’s Mike Daum deferred to teammates, he came roaring back Saturday with 37 points in a rout of Oral Roberts.

It was bound to happen at some point.

On tap this week:

Wednesday, Jan. 16

South Dakota State at North Dakota

North Dakota State at Denver

Thursday, Jan. 17

Omaha at Western Illinois

South Dakota at Oral Roberts

Saturday, Jan. 19

North Dakota at North Dakota State

Purdue Fort Wayne at Western Illinois

Sunday, Jan. 20

Oral Roberts at Denver

South Dakota at Omaha

Game of the week: South Dakota at Omaha, 6 p.m. Sunday

It’s pretty obvious by this selection that there are very few top-tier games in the Summit League this week. With that said, if Omaha handles its business at Western Illinois on Thursday, then the Mavericks’ home game against South Dakota gives them a chance to prove their worth in the Summit League.

Omaha was an afterthought when the season began, but Zach Jackson, JT Gibson and Matt Pile have rounded into a solid Summit League trio.

The Mavericks shoot the ball well and have plenty of scoring options, which helps gloss over the rebounding issues.

But if Omaha can score enough, it can be a threat to anyone in the nine-team league.

News and notes:

  • Daum is now in the NCAA’s top 25 all-time scoring list after his 37-point effort against Oral Roberts on Saturday.
  • North Dakota and North Dakota State will meet this week for the first time as conference opponents since 2004. It will be the 296th meeting between the two rivals.
  • Despite Oral Roberts losing at Purdue Fort Wayne and South Dakota State, Emmanuel Nzekwesi still notched double-doubles in both games. Against South Dakota State, Nzekwesi had 14 points and 18 rebounds against South Dakota State.

Power rankings

1. Purdue Fort Wayne (12-8, 4-1): The Mastodons are well known for their 3-point marksmanship this season, but perhaps a hidden characteristic is how Purdue Fort Wayne shares the ball. The Mastodons are fourth in the country in total assists (329), and they’ve logged seven games with 20 or more assists, including 22 last week in a blowout victory over Oral Roberts.

2. South Dakota State (14-6, 4-1): Sure, Daum is out there grabbing a lot of rebounds for the Jackrabbits, but South Dakota State’s entire roster rebounds well. The Jackrabbits have hauled in 778 rebounds, good enough for second in the country. Daum snags 10.3 a game, and the second-best rebounder is 6-foot-2 guard Tevin King (6.3).

3. South Dakota (8-9, 2-2): Stanley Umede is emerging as a potential star in the Summit League. The standout from San Antonio has averaged 20.2 points per game in his last six contests. It all started with 28-point showing at Kansas, and he’s gone for 26 points apiece in each of his last two games (against South Dakota State and Purdue Fort Wayne).

4. Oral Roberts (7-13, 3-2): Make it two straight years of the Golden Eagles opening league play 3-0 and then falling on hard times. Turnovers and shooting woes reared their ugly heads in back-to-back blow out losses at Purdue Fort Wayne and South Dakota State last week. All that said, if Emmanuel Nzekwesi, Kevin Obanor and DeShang Weaver can score and rebound, they Golden Eagles should be able to hold their own -- at home, at least.

5. Omaha (9-8, 3-1): Good luck getting Omaha to turn the ball over. In four Summit League games, the Mavericks only give the ball away nine times on average.

6. North Dakota (8-10, 2-3): Conner Avants leads the way, but the addition of Marlon Stewart has been key for the Fighting Hawks. He established a season high with 21 points in North Dakota’s 71-65 win over Western Illinois over the weekend.

7. North Dakota State (8-10, 2-2): Bison put together their best league performance to date in its last outing against Western Illinois a week ago. In an 85-69 victory, six different North Dakota State scored in double figures, led by Tyson Ward’s 17 points. He also had 13 rebounds during his double-double effort.

8. Western Illinois (5-12, 1-4): Offense has disappeared for the Leathernecks recently. In its last three games – all losses – Western Illinois has averaged only 65.7 points per game.

9. Denver (5-14, 0-5): Pioneers are losing by an average of 11.8 points per game. Joe Rosga is averaging 13.4 points per game in league games, but he’s not getting much help around him.