Jan. 15, 2009
Indianapolis, Ind. - Melanie Thornton registered her fifth double-double of the season, Brittany Bowen and Susan Lester notched double-figure points and rebounds, respectively, and the Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first-half shooting performance to rally for a convincing 64-45 victory over Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 15) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The win gives Butler its sixth-straight and sends it to a 5-0 start to the Horizon League season.
With the win, the Bulldogs (10-6, 5-0 Horizon) matched the 1995-96 team for the second-best start to a conference season in school history. The 1992-93 squad boasts the school record, beginning the league slate at 9-0.
The negative temperatures outside the gym bore a disturbing resemblance to the Bulldogs' cold shooting at the start of play, as Butler struggled to a 1-for-19 effort from the field in the opening 10 minutes as Loyola ran out to a quick 7-0 lead before taking a nine-point margin at 14-5 with 10:21 to go in the period.
Butler steadily found its shooting stroke, however, as a tip in by Lester, a lay-up by Candyce Brown and a pair of makes from the line by Lade Akande cut the gap to three before a three-pointer by Bowen with 6:22 on the clock knotted the contest at 16-16 and brought the game back to even for the first time since 0-0.
Loyola countered with three straight buckets to push back out to a six-point advantage, but a trey by Bowen, a jumper by Thornton and another triple by Candace Jones gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night at 24-22 with less than two minutes to go in the frame.
Butler would be unable to hold onto the margin before the end of the half, as the Ramblers scored the final six points of the period to take a 28-26 lead into the locker room.
The Bulldogs entered the second half in position that had not served them well throughout the season, having won all nine of their previous contests by leading at the half while dropping all six defeats after trailing at the break. Conversely, Loyola entered the game with a 4-1 record when leading through the first 20 minutes.
The recent history mattered little, however, as the Bulldogs reverted back to the key to their success all season long by using smothering defense to hold the Ramblers to just six field goals in the second half - including just one in the final 10 minutes of play.
The offense, meanwhile, shook off its early woes by converting 13-of-33 from the floor to outscore Loyola, 38-17 in the final period.
After finding itself trailing the Ramblers by two at 37-35 with just over 14 minutes to go in the game, Butler responded with a 17-2 run - keyed by a 6-for-7 effort from the line and a huge three-pointer by Devin Brierly - that propelled the Bulldogs to a 13-point margin with less than six minutes remaining and put the game out of reach for Loyola.
After shooting just 26.5 percent (9-for-34) in the opening half, the Bulldogs responded with a 39.4 percent effort in the second. Butler also took advantage of 28 Rambler turnovers, converting them into 30 points while allowing Loyola just four points off 12 miscues.
Thornton equaled her career-best with 13 rebounds and added 12 points, Lester tied her season-best with 11 boards and Bowen matched the team-lead with 12 points.
By holding the Ramblers to just 45 points, the Bulldogs have kept their last six foes to 50 or fewer points and improve to 9-1 on the year when allowing less than 60 points.
Butler tries to keep its impressive run alive on Saturday (Jan. 17) when it welcomes UIC to Indianapolis for a 2:00 p.m. contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse.