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Second half surge propels Bulldogs over Evansville to snap losing skid

A career night from redshirt junior Jordan Clarke and a barrage of treys helped Drake snap its three-game losing streak with a 78-54 victory over Evansville on Sunday night at the Knapp Center. Clarke had a career-high 18 points and tied a career-high with 12 rebounds. The Bulldogs played their third straight game without junior Ben Simons, but the team finally notched a win without its second leading scorer. Drake shot a sizzling 50 percent from beyond the arc. Five players scored in double figures as the Bulldogs (14-12, 7-8 MVC) exploded for a 24-4 run in the second half to put away the Purple Aces (12-13, 7-8). “We just worked hard,” Clarke said. “We shared the ball. We had a game plan to go inside-out, and we did that.” Evansville closed the gap to 40-39 with 14:41 remaining in the game when Drake went on its run. The Bulldogs’ run lasted six minutes, and the team never looked back. Drake converted a season-high 11 field goals from behind the 3-point line. Senior Kurt Alexander was a valuable weapon off the bench, as he contributed 16 points and six rebounds. Sophomore Rayvonte Rice had 13 points, redshirt freshman Jeremy Jeffers had 12 and junior Aaron Hawley had 10. “The floor is filled with 3-point shooters for us, so we were fortunate to knock down open shots,” Hawley said. “We did a good job of distributing the ball.” Drake shot 53.6 percent from the floor for the game while Evansville made just 36.8 percent of its shots. Denver Holmes led the Purple Aces with 16 points. “I thought our guys followed the game plan to perfection,” head coach Mark Phelps said about the defensive effort. “They were where they were supposed to be at all times. In addition, I thought they played with a lot of energy and a lot of effort.” The Bulldogs traveled to Peoria, Ill., to take on last-place Bradley last night. Drake is tied with Evansville and Northern Iowa for fifth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. All three teams trail fourth-place Illinois State by one game and third-place Missouri State by two games, respectively, in the league standings. The Bulldogs take a break from MVC action to take on New Mexico State this Saturday for the annual ESPN BracketBusters game. Drake’s final home game is next Wednesday against Southern Illinois. The Bulldogs finish the season at Wichita State on Feb. 28 before heading to St. Louis for the State Farm MVC Championship from March 1-4. “I really like our team,” Phelps said. “I think our team has a lot of confidence in each other and also in themselves.” Although he has received plenty of criticism from the Drake fan base, Phelps has made history of his own. With Sunday’s victory, Phelps added to his record of the most wins of any coach in school history in their first four seasons at Drake. The triumph over Evansville gives Phelps 58 over his first four seasons. Maury John (1958-62) is second on the list with 55 wins, and Tom Davis (2003-06) is third with 54. The Bulldogs’ road contest at New Mexico State is set to start at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Las Cruces, N.M.


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