The University of Sioux Falls Men’s Basketball Team, which was led by 26 points from both Drew Guebert and Justin Taylor, recorded an 81-72 road win over Upper Iowa in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division play. USF, which is 5-1 in road NSIC play, retained a hold on second place in the NSIC South with a 9-4 record and pulled within a half-game of first place Wayne State (9-3), which was idle.
For Taylor, the 26 points was a career high as he hit 9-of-16 field goals, including 8-of-8 from the foul line. He also had eight rebounds and four assists before fouling out in his biggest game at USF. Taylor’s previous high was 16 points against Fort Hays State on Nov. 9, 2018 and Concordia-St. Paul on Dec. 7.
Guebert, who had 17 points at halftime, registered 26 points, three rebounds and three blocks. Guebert had his 37th 20-point game of his career and 10th of the season. Guebert, who now has 1,776 career points (4th all-time at USF), recorded his 84th career double digit scoring game. Trevon Evans, who had his 22nd straight double-digit scoring game with 12 points, had eight rebounds, an assist and no turnovers. Plus, Evans, who hit a big three-pointer in the final minute of play, did not commit a turnover. He now has 1,056 career points and registered his 45th double-digit scoring game.
“I thought we did a good job on Upper Iowa defensively as we held them to 37 percent shooting and held the top shooting perimeter in check from three-point range,” said USF Chris Johnson, who now has 206 career wins. “Most of all, I thought tonight we had poise, even when they rallied late against us and drew within two points. Then, we had Justin (Taylor) step up with a big shot,” he said.
Johnson, whose team will face Winona State on the road on Saturday night at 6 p.m., was complimentary of his team and particularly Justin Taylor, Trevon Evans and Drew Guebert.
“I want to talk about the great defensive game by Trevon (Evans), who had his biggest game on defense and had eight rebounds, 12 points and didn’t commit a turnover. What can you say about Justin (Taylor)? It is the best game here at USF. He played hard all night. He scrambled for loose balls, put in big baskets and defended against a guy much larger than him (Munachiso Okonkwo). He made big plays and hustle plays all night. And, Drew (Guebert), he came out on fire. In the second half, he was in foul trouble but still found ways to get things done out there,” he said.
Led by Guebert’s 17 points in the first half, the Cougars took a 37-29 lead at halftime. Then, USF outscored UIU, 44-43 in the second half to pick up the crucial win. In a game with five tie scores and seven lead changes, Cougars had a 38-to-26 margin of points in the paint and also a 15-to-4 edge in second chance points. Led by Taylor, USF had a 33-to-19 advantage in bench points.
Overall, USF was 29-of-67 from the field for 43.3 percent but just 3-of-19 for 15.8 percent from three-point range. The Cougars made 20-of-23 free throws for 87 percent and held a major edge in rebounds at 46-to-28. It is the 19th straight game USF has outrebounded its opponents.
UIU, which was led by 20 points from Munachiso Okonkwo and 14 from Jareese Williams, made 22-of-59 field goals for 37.3 percent. However, the Peacocks, which led the league with 11.5 made threes per game, hit only 7-of-25 for 28 percent from distance. They were 21-of-26 at the charity stripe and committed just seven turnovers.
Game Breakdown –
Early on Okonkwo hit a pair of foul shots to give the Peacocks a 7-5 lead. After Aaron Rothermund’s three-pointer gave USF a 14-9 lead, UIU had an 11-2 run as Quentin Blaue’s three gave them a 20-16 lead with 10:56 to play. Then, Guebert scored 11 points over a seven-minute period as USF’s 15-6 run pushed the Cougars into a 31-26 lead at the 3:09 mark of the first half. Guebert followed with two foul shots and Rothermund had a lay-up and Taylor a dunk as the Cougars took a 37-27 lead with 1:07 to play.
USF, which also had eight points from Taylor in the opening 20 minutes, led 37-29 at halftime after Okonkwo had a lay-up with 51 seconds to go.
The Cougars took control early in the second half as a three-point play from Guebert gave USF a 44-33 lead with 17:10 to play. Led by Taylor, the Cougars built a 50-39 lead with 15:40 to go. Then, UIU made a run at USF. With a 7-0 run, all from the foul line, UIU cut USF’s lead to 50-46 with 13:04 to play. Later a three-pointer from Williams drew the Peacocks within 54-52 with 8:08 on the clock. But Taylor caught fire and scored seven points over the next two minutes as USF pushed their lead back to 63-56 with 6:07 to go.
UIU’s last charge came with under two minutes to play as Okonkwo’s lay-up cut USF’s lead to 74-70 at the 1:10 mark. But USF’s Milan Sulic hit two three throws, and with 22 seconds left, Evans hit a three-point for a 79-70 lead. When Evans followed with two free throws just two seconds later, the Cougars led, 81-70, and had secured a fourth straight win over the Peacocks.