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Eastern Washington tasked with stopping All-America forward Mike Daum, South Dakota State

The Eastern Washington Eagles must figure out a way to slow down South Dakota State All-America forward Mike Daum. (Tom R. Smedes / AP)
The Eastern Washington Eagles must figure out a way to slow down South Dakota State All-America forward Mike Daum. (Tom R. Smedes / AP)

Syracuse, Oregon, Washington, Stanford and upstart San Francisco gave undersized Eastern Washington problems inside.

Bol Bol, Oregon’s 7-foot-3 future NBA lottery pick, was a load.

Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett and Washington’s Noah Dickerson were also tough matchups for the guard-heavy Eagles.

When EWU (1-8) concludes the brawny portion of its nonconference schedule Tuesday at Reese Court against South Dakota State (9-4), it won’t get any easier in the paint.

The Summit League power features one of the country’s top forwards in 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior Mike Daum, a two-time All-American who led the Jackrabbits to the last three NCAA tournaments.

Area basketball fans may remember Daum in 2017 when he faced Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The two-time Summit Player of the Year scored 17 points and had seven rebounds in a 66-46 loss.

Daum dropped 27 points in a first-round loss to Ohio State last March before testing the NBA Draft waters and opting to return for his senior season.

He comes to Cheney averaging 24.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and is shooting 51 percent from the floor and 84 percent the free-throw line.

“Of the (post players on EWU’s schedule), Daum is by far the most skilled player for his size,” EWU head coach Shantay Legans said. “He’s probably not the best pro prospect, but he’s definitely the best college player. He’s tough to stop.”

Legans said Daum’s versatility is what makes him dangerous.

“He can go right, left. Shoot 3s. Pass. Pump fake. He’s a future NBA player,” Legans said. “He just does so many things well, and he has good teammates, too.”

SDSU fell 72-68 at sixth-ranked Nevada – a game in which Daum was held to a five points – and now turns its attention to an EWU team that’s been shorthanded for six weeks.

EWU’s primary inside threat last season, 6-foot-8 Mason Peatling, has yet to play due a injury. Legans said he hopes to work Peatling in the lineup on Friday against NAIA-member Corban University.

BYU transfer Stephen Beo, Washington’s top scorer at Richland High three years ago, missed the first seven games due to injury. The guard returned in a 85-63 loss to San Francisco last week, logging seven minutes.

Eagles guard Jacob Davidson has battled through leg and wrist injuries this season, but poured in 25 points in a loss at North Dakota State on Dec. 8.

Jesse Hunt, EWU’s 6-foot-7 swingman, has stepped up big, averaging 16.9 points and eight rebounds, including a career-high 32 points in a 87-80 overtime win over Missouri-Kansas City.

SDSU also played UMKC las month, handling the Kangaroos 75-47.

“Losing isn’t fun, but we’re getting better every game,” said Legans, who started out 3-8 last season before finishing 20-15 and reaching the Big Sky Conference tournament title game.

“We’re in this for the long haul and these (nonconference games) are getting us ready.”

EWU, which was picked fourth in the preseason Big Sky Conference media and coaches polls, opens conference play at home Dec. 29 against Weber State.

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