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Yesufu’s torrid pace continues with 36 points as Drake sweeps

AP FILE PHOTO - Drake guard Joseph Yesufu dribbles up the up court during a Missouri Valley Conference basketball game against Illinois State on Feb. 1 at the Knapp Center in Des Moines.

DES MOINES — Joseph Yesufu became the school’s first player to put up consecutive 30-point games in 33 years and Garrett Sturtz recorded his second career double-double, leading the Drake University men’s basketball team to a 74-63 victory over Evansville at the Knapp Center on Monday night and a sweep of their Missouri Valley Conference series.

Yesufu scored a career-high 36 points — 18 in each half — in the Bulldogs’ regular-season home finale after notching 32 in an 85-71 win over the Purple Aces on Sunday. It’s the third straight game the 6-foot sophomore reached a career high and the first time a Drake player scored 30 in back-to-back games since Eric Berger did it in December of 1988. His 36th points are the most by an MVC player this season.

“He had a tremendous couple of days and has been playing well for a while,” Drake head coach Darian DeVries said of Yesufu. “You can see his confidence grow.”

Sturtz scored 12 points on 6-for-9 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, while D.J. Wilkins scored 11 with three 3-pointers. Redshirt freshman Issa Samake delivered six points and six rebounds off the bench in a career-high 29 minutes, and Tremell Murphy contributed eight rebounds, three assists and a career-best four blocked shots.

Drake, now 23-2 overall and 14-2 in the MVC, finished the regular season 14-1 at home. The Bulldogs, tied with Loyola for first place in the league, are 41-5 at the Knapp Center over the last three seasons.

“I thought it was a great win for us and win to wrap up our home season,” DeVries said. “I’m proud of our second-half performance and thought it was tremendous. We really had to gut one out and I’m proud of them.”

Yesufu fashioned his big game in the first start of his career. He replaced point guard Roman Penn, the MVC leader in assists, who injured his left foot on Sunday and will undergo season-ending surgery. The Bulldogs also are playing without season scoring leader ShanQuan Hemphill, sidelined by a fracture in his left foot that required surgery.

As a result, Yesufu, Sturtz and Wilkins played the full 40 minutes and Murphy played 37 minutes.

Yesufu carried over his torrid shooting from Sunday, making 11-of-18 shots overall and 5-of-8 on 3-pointers. He knocked down 23 of 32 shots in the two games, including 10 of 15 from 3-point range. He also had five rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal.

“He is a very talented individual that has made huge strides for us,” DeVries added of Yesufu. “He’s put the time in and is seeing that come out on the floor. I’m proud of what he’s put in to get to this point and the effort he has put in.”

Shamar Grivance led Evansville (8-14, 6-10) with 17 points and Evan Kuhlman scored 16. Kuhlman hurt the Bulldogs with 13 first-half points, helping the Purple Aces to a 35-31 lead at the break, but the Bulldogs held him to just two shots and one basket in the second half and that basket came with 2:33 remaining after Drake had built a 15-point lead.

Keeping Kuhlman in check was part of a better overall defensive effort by the Bulldogs in the second half. After knocking down seven 3s in 13 attempts in the first 20 minutes, the Purple Aces went 2-for-10 from long range in the second half. The Bulldogs held them to them 37.5 percent shooting in the final half and 43.4 percent for the game.

Drake shot 53 percent and outrebounded Evansville 35-20.

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the second at half at 41-39 on Yesufu’s 3-pointer from the right wing on a sharp pass out of the post from Darnell Brodie. After Evansville tied it at 41, Drake ran off six straight points to move in front for good, then took control with a 12-3 run in which Sturtz had a hand in every basket.

He drove down the right side for a layup, went down the left side for another layup, found Yesufu for a 3-pointer, then rebounded his own miss and fed Wilkins for a 3. Finally, the 6-3 junior from Newton, Iowa, beat his defender off the dribble for another layup, putting Drake up 59-46 with 5:12 remaining.

Yesufu took over from there, driving for two baskets, sinking six free throws and jamming home a two-handed dunk on a breakaway for a 71-59 lead with a minute to play.

DeVries was able to get reserve Connor Gholson, who won’t return next season, into the game with 20 seconds left and he was fouled on a 3-point shot. He made all three free throws for the Bulldogs’ final points, drawing a roar from the crowd.

Drake finishes the regular season with a two-game series at Bradley on Friday and Saturday. The MVC tournament starts March 4 in St. Louis.

Drake 74, Evansville 63

EVANSVILLE (8-13) — Kuhlman 6-9 0-0 16, Levitch 1-4 0-0 3, Frederking 0-1 0-0 0, Givance 6-16 4-4 17, Newton 5-13 3-4 14, Curtis 5-10 1-2 13, Enaruna 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 23-53 8-10 63.

DRAKE (22-2) — Brodie 2-4 0-1 4, Murphy 1-5 0-0 2, Sturtz 6-9 0-0 12, Wilkins 4-9 0-0 11, Yesufu 11-18 9-10 36, Thomas 0-0 0-0 0, Ferguson 0-0 0-0 0. TOTALS 25-47 16-20 74.

Halftime–Evansville 35-31. 3-Point Goals–Evansville 9-23 (Kuhlman 4-6, Curtis 2-5, Newton 1-2, Levitch 1-4, Givance 1-5, Frederking 0-1), Drake 8-18 (Yesufu 5-8, Wilkins 3-8, Murphy 0-2). Fouled Out–Givance. Rebounds–Evansville 20 (Levitch 7), Drake 34 (Sturtz 10). Assists–Evansville 8 (Givance 4), Drake 10 (Murphy 3). Total Fouls–Evansville 14, Drake 12.

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