Nov. 12, 2006
Champaign, Ill. - Butler battled Illinois punch for punch late into the ballgame but was unable to hold on in the final stretch, as the Bulldogs fell by a 65-47 count in their season-opener in Assembly Hall on Sunday (Nov. 12).
The final score was not a fair representation of the game as a whole, as Butler pressed the Fighting Illini throughout the contest. The Bulldogs led in the early going and kept things close through the second half, trailing only by one with just over 10 minutes remaining before Illinois pulled away in the final minutes.
The Bulldogs got out to a fast and furious start, as sophomore center Lade Akande and sophomore guard Candace Jones netted Butler's first nine points before junior forward Cassie Freeman canned a three-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 12-4 lead just under five minutes into the contest.
Illinois would come roaring back, however, going on a 15-0 run to take a 19-12 advantage at 10:53 and held a 12-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in the stanza, but the Bulldogs used an 8-2 surge in the final minutes, keyed on treys by Freeman and senior Jackie Closser, to cut the deficit to six at 33-27 heading into the locker room.
Butler went right back to work in the second half, closing the gap to three on Freeman's third triple of the night five minutes into the period, but Illinois answered right back on their very next trip down the court on a three-pointer by Chelsea Gordon.
The Bulldogs nipped away in the next five minutes and brought the score to its smallest second-half margin at 42-41 on a trey by Closser at the 10:11 mark, but Illinois' Lacey Simpson countered just 20 seconds later on a three of her own.
From there, the Fighting Illini would hold the Bulldog offense in check, allowing only six points in the last 10 minutes to secure the victory.
"We're obviously disappointed with the loss," head coach Beth Couture said. "We were really in it for almost the entire game until the final six minutes or so. We battled and fought hard the whole time, and we need to be able to carry that into Friday's game."
Jones (5-of-8) and Freeman (4-of-8) paced the Bulldogs with 11 points a piece, while Akande (4-of-16) finished in double-figures with 10 points and added a team-high six rebounds. Closser added nine points in the game, including a pair of three-pointers.
Butler forced 15 Illinois turnovers in the game thanks in part to eight steals, including three by Freeman.
Illinois featured four players in double-digits, led by Simpson with 17, while hitting 56.3 percent from the field as a team.
The Bulldogs open up the home slate this Friday (Nov. 17) as they host Bradley at Hinkle Fieldhouse beginning at 7:00 p.m.