INDIANAPOLIS - The Butler women's basketball team turned a close game into a blowout win on Thursday, pulling away in the second half for a 60-45 victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
"At the end of the day, this was good. This could've been a game where we struggled down to the last second," head coach Beth Couture said. "And we didn't want that against them."
Junior Daress McClung led Butler with 19 points, including 12 in the second half. She shot 7-for-15 from the floor and made four steals.
"We found her more in the second half. People are going to crowd Daress. She's good," Couture said. "I don't think we were seeing her in the first half, but when she got some points you could see the relief in everybody because she is our scorer."
Rhode Island (5-17, 0-7) committed 28 turnovers and made 15 field goals on the night. Butler forced five shot clock violations.
After having eight days off, Butler appeared rusty early and the game was tied 7-7 at the 13:05 mark. A 10-2 run gave BU some breathing space, but the Rams wouldn't go away. URI's Tayra Melendez, the team's leading scorer, made a pair of foul shots at the 3:29 mark to cut Butler's lead to 21-18. The two teams traded baskets until the Dawgs took a 26-22 lead into the locker room.
"I don't know what the reason was, but we didn't seem to be in sync in the first half," Couture said. "I give them (Rhode Island) credit. They play hard. But in the second half we executed better offensively and our press into our zone made them think more and caught them off guard."
The Bulldogs made up for a slow first half by dominating after halftime. With Butler leading 34-32 with 14:30 left, BU began to turn the game into a blowout. An 11-1 run capped by a back-door alley-oop to Stratman gave the Bulldogs a 45-33 lead.
Butler would add another 11-4 spurt to extend the lead to 56-37 with 4:08 to play. That was Butler's largest lead of the game as the Dawgs killed the clock down the stretch to finish the win.
Melendez led URI with 13 points and six rebounds. The Rams shot a respectable .429 to keep the game close most of the night but couldn't overcome turnovers and some timely 3-pointers by the Bulldogs. Butler shot 8-for-21 beyond the arc.
Butler goes back on the road this weekend, taking on George Washington in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Feb. 10.