INDIANAPOLIS - Senior Melanie Thornton scored 21 points and collected five steals to lead the Butler women's basketball team to a 72-53 victory over Loyola Saturday evening. The win was Butler's sixth in its last seven games. The contest was the Horizon League opener for both teams.
Thornton scored 13 points in the first half and was a one-player wrecking crew as Butler jumped out to a 39-21 lead at the break. The 6-foot-1 forward scored 11 points over a span of 4:24 to help BU take a 32-21 lead late in the first half.
Thornton finished the night 8-for-12 from the floor and she made all five of her free throws. She added six rebounds and two blocks to her five steals in 27 minutes of action.
"I thought Mel was dominant," BU head coach Beth Couture said. "She was making shots and creating trouble for Loyola with her defense. She was a big reason why we were able to win tonight."
Senior Susan Lester had 12 points and junior Chloe Hamilton and Brittany Bowen each added 10.
Loyola (6-6) kept the game close early, pulling within 21-19 on a lay-up by Ellen Ayoub with 7:49 remaining in the first half. That is when Thornton went on a tear and the Bulldogs (8-4) put a lid on LU's offense. Butler finished the half on an 18-2 run and then scored the first six points of the second half to take a 45-21 lead.
Butler cruised the rest of the way, leading by as many as 63-38. Couture emptied her bench with more than four minutes remaining.
"We came out with a lot of energy, even when Loyola was scoring early," Couture said. "We have been working toward this January 2 date and the kids were as excited to play as I was to coach.
"We did what we wanted to defensively, holding teams in the 50s and keeping the field goal percentage low. I think we can get better rebounding still, but I think we have improved in that area some already."
Ayoub led Loyola with 11 points. Shannon Finnegan had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Butler will host the HL's other Chicago school, UIC, Monday night at 7 p.m.
NOTES: BU is now 6-2 in Horizon League openers under Beth Couture...Melanie Thornton's 21 points fell two short of her career high, set last year vs. Christian Brothers. She also tied season highs in field goals (8) and steals (5)...The Bulldogs have now won six of seven, with their only loss a double OT setback at Dayton...Butler improves to 15-6 vs. Loyola over the last 10 years and has won 11 of the last 12 meetings. Couture is 11-4 against Loyola...BU shot .483 from the floor, its second highest mark of the season. The team shot .500 at Saint Louis...Butler finished 12-for-13 at the free throw line and made its first 11 FT attempts...Butler had a 36-33 rebounding edge and is now 5-0 when grabbing more rebounds than its opponent...Sophomore Kaley May saw her first action of the year, playing two minutes.