Dec. 22, 2005
Junior Ellen Hamilton scored 18 second-half points, igniting a Butler offense that had been dormant for nearly 30 minutes, as Butler overcame a 17-point, second-half deficit to win, 72-66, over UMBC Thursday evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The victory, the team's second comeback win in as many games, lifts Butler to 4-5 heading into the holiday break. The Retrievers from Baltimore fall to 7-3 on the year.
After missing her only three attempts from the field in the first half, Hamilton responded by going 6-of-9 in the second 20 minutes, including 4-of-5 from behind the arc. She added a season-high five rebounds. Butler connected on six of 13 three-point attempts in the second half after dialing long distance just once in the first frame.
"There was no intensity on defense in the first half," said Butler coach Beth Couture. "I challenged the team at halftime, but more importantly, they challenged each other. Everyone in that locker room knew a comeback was possible. You can look and see our 50-percent shooting in the second half, but this came down to our defense making stops in the last 10 minutes of the game. Stephanie Boeke made some huge plays down the stretch for us, playing defense, rebounding and hitting a key basket to put us up four."
The holidays looked to be off to an early start as Butler built an early 7-0 lead and held UMBC without a make in the Retrievers' first eight field goal attempts. That's when the tides began to change. UMBC finished the half by nailing 17 of its final 22 attempts and used a Butler field goal drought that stretched nearly eight minutes to take a 37-21 lead at the 2:57 mark of the first half. Butler got the lead down to nine with 48 seconds remaining before Heather Luttrell's trey gave UMBC a 42-30 halftime lead.
The Retrievers shot 57 percent in the first half and hit six three-pointers. The only thing that kept Butler in the game was a perfect 11-of-11 mark from the free throw line. Butler would hit 10-of-11 tosses in the second half for a 96-percent clip on the night.
UMBC scored the first five points of the second half to stretch the lead to 17 with 18:28 to play. That's when Butler began chipping away, just as they did Monday night in a come-from-behind win over Evansville. A Candace Bain three, Hamilton trey and Bain jumper in the paint trimmed UMBC's advantage to nine. The teams then traded baskets for the next seven minutes before Kristin Drabyn's three-pointer gave UMBC a 12-point lead with 9:12 to play.
Hamilton and freshman Lade Akande combined to score the next 16 Butler points with Hamilton's three-pointer from the left wing capping a 16-4 Butler run and knotted the game at 64. After stopping UMBC on one end, Carla Gheorghe's spin move in the paint and finish gave the Bulldogs their first lead since the 12:42 mark of the first half at 66-64. The next time down, Gheorghe made a beautiful baseline feed to a streaking Boeke for a lay-up and four-point advantage. Butler sealed the win with four free throws. Butler scored 24 of the game's final 32 points after scoring 12 of the final 13 against Evansville Monday.
Hamilton's 18 points led four Bulldogs in double figures. Akande and Gheorghe each had 12, while Boeke added a season-high 11 points and career-high five steals. Boeke and Akande tied for the team-lead with seven rebounds, and Cassie Freeman came off the bench to secure six caroms. Butler held a 31-30 advantage on the boards. Looking for a spark in the second half, Couture went with a small line-up at times, pairing Boeke and Freeman with three guards, leaving no Bulldogs on the floor taller than 5-10.
Amanda Robinson led UMBC with 19 points. The Retrievers were held to 31-percent shooting in the second half, finishing the game at 43 percent. Butler got to the free throw line 22 times, while the Retrievers attempted just five charity tosses.
A boisterous crowd of more than 400 attended Thursday's match-up. Three UMBC players hail from Indiana and each had a considerable cheering section, in addition to the Bulldog faithful.
Butler returns to action Thursday (Dec. 29) against Youngstown State at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It is the Horizon League opener for both teams. Free video and audio of the 7 p.m. tip will be available live on www.butlersports.com.