Pittsburgh, Pa. - After more than a decade since the programs' last post-season victory, the Butler women's basketball team didn't mind the fact that it took nearly the full 40 minutes in its first round game of the WNIT on Thursday (March 19) evening to get another, as a lay-up in traffic by Candace Jones in the final seconds sent the Bulldogs to a grueling 59-58 come-from-behind win over host Duquesne at the A.J. Palumbo Center.
Lade Akande led all scorers with 26 points and 12 rebounds, Brittany Bowen picked up her first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 10 boards and Susan Lester added 11 points as the Bulldogs improved to 20-11 on the season.
Butler will move on to the second round of the tournament on Monday (March 23) to face host Marquette at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT).
The victory is Butler's first in post-season play since the 1997-98 team topped Bowling Green in the opening round of the WNIT. The win also gives the Bulldogs back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1994-95 and 1995-96.
Trailing by one with 14 seconds left in the seconds half, Jones took a pass from Tara Miller on the left side of the floor and drove from the timeline through a barrage of Duquesne defenders and banked in a soft lay-up to give the Bulldogs a one-point edge with 2.2 seconds on the clock.
Duquesne burned its final timeout to draw up the last play of the game, but the final three-point attempt at the buzzer sailed wide and the celebration was on for Butler.
The opening period gave no indication that the contest would become an exhausting battle that featured 11 lead changes and seven ties by the time the final horn sounded.
After neither team's offense found the bottom of the net for the first two and a half minutes, the Dukes ran out to a quick 14-4 lead with 13:47 to go in the opening period.
Duquesne maintained an eight-point margin at 24-16 with just over seven minutes to go before the Bulldogs surged right back into the contest. A three-pointer by Miller followed by back-to-back lay-ups by Akande brought Butler back to within one (24-23) with 3:44 to go.
An ensuing 10-0 run by the Dukes, however, pushed the home team out to an 11-point lead at 34-23 with less than two minutes to go. A three by Lester in the final seconds cut the difference to eight, but Duquesne would maintain a 34-26 edge at the break.
A quick lay-up at the start of the second extended the Dukes lead to 10, but the Bulldogs would erase all of it over the next five minutes, as a 10-0 run - keyed by five points from Bowen and capped by a trey from Jones - brought the contest back to even for the first time since the opening tip.
A three by Bowen just three minutes later gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game at 41-40 with 12:34 to go.
The two sides would change the lead 10 times down the stretch, with no team leading by more than three at any one point.
Duquesne carried a 57-55 lead into the final minute of play before a foul sent Akande to the line with a chance to tie. The senior center delivered, hitting both attempts to knot the contest up for the seventh time.
The Dukes had a chance to go back in front by two with 14 seconds to go, as Kristi Little drew a critical foul with 14 seconds to play, but the Duquesne guard split her pair of tosses from the line to set up Jones' last second heroics.
Akande finished with an 11-of-16 effort from the floor and a 4-for-7 mark from the line to post a season-high 26 points and added a game-high 12 rebounds for her third double-double of the year. Bowen picked up her first double-double with 10 points and 10 boards, while Lester chipped in 11 points and a team-high four assists.
The Bulldogs took advantage of a 32-to-20 advantage in points in the paint and an impressive 19-to-4 margin in second-chance scoring. The Butler bench also out-scored the Dukes' 36-to-13.