INDIANAPOLIS - Senior Melanie Thornton scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and the Bulldogs overcame a 17-point deficit but the rally fell short as UIC defeated the Butler women's basketball team, 75-70, Monday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Thornton, BU's leading scorer and rebounder, also had four steals and three blocks. She shot 9-for-17 from the floor and was dominant in the paint for nearly the entire game. Senior Susan Lester had 13 points and seven rebounds while juniors Brittany Bowen and Terra Burns scored 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Down 73-70 in the final seconds, Butler called timeout and drove the length of the floor to set up for a 3-pointer. Bowen came off a screen at the top of the key and appeared open but had her 3-pointer blocked by UIC's Cassie Johnson. The Flames made free throws with 0.2 seconds left for the final margin.
"We showed a lot of effort in the comeback, but we didn't have the effort in the first half," head coach Beth Couture said. "We weren't aggressive on defense. We didn't play very good team defense. We need to have better effort at the start."
Butler (8-5, 1-1 HL) found itself in a big hole early, as UIC used an 18-3 run to take a 32-16 lead with 7:04 left in the first half. The Flames made 14 of their first 20 shots and shot 63 percent in the first half to take a 44-31 lead at halftime.
"I give UIC credit," Couture said. "They hit shots and played well."
The Flames (5-8, 2-0 HL) extended their lead to its largest of the night at 48-31 with 17:17 remaining before Butler began its comeback. In a span of just 1:54, Butler ripped off a 10-0 run and forced four UIC turnovers. Thornton scored five points during the run.
Another Thornton bucket with 8:23 left in the game pulled BU to within 57-52 and forced the Flames to use a timeout. Bowen and Lester each followed with a lay-up to cut the lead to 57-56.
A free throw by Thornton tied the game at 57, and Butler got a stop on the other end for a chance to take its first lead of the game. Thornton was called for an illegal screen on the possession, which helped UIC score the next five points for a 62-57 lead. BU pulled within 62-61 moments later, but would get no closer.
Jasmine Bailey led UIC with 19 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals. Jessie Miller, Taylor Foulks and Shameia Green each had 16 for the Flames.
Butler had a 37-34 rebounding edge, including a 15-8 advantage on the offensive boards. The Bulldogs managed just 2-for-13 3-point shooting. UIC blocked 10 shots in the game.
The Bulldogs conclude their four-game stretch of home contests Saturday, Jan. 9 vs. Valparaiso. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.
NOTES: Melanie Thornton's previous career high was 23 points. It was her fourth double-double of the season...UIC shot 46.4 percent, the highest percentage BU has allowed this season. The Flames made 7 3s, tied for the most for a Bulldog opponent...The Flames' 75 points was the most allowed by Butler in a league home game since Green Bay had 81 in 2007...Susan Lester had 13 points, her highest total since the Cancun trip. She is averaging 12.0 points over the last three games...Butler was 2-for-13 from beyond the arc, setting season lows in 3s made and attempted.