Fierce Butler Rally Not Enough, As Loyola Holds On For 67-64 Decision
Indianapolis, Ind. - Butler rallied from a 13-point deficit midway through the second half to take a one point lead with just over two minutes remaining, but visiting Loyola converted four free throws and used a late defensive stand to claim a 67-64 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Feb. 9).
Trailing 59-46 with 9:43 to go in the game, the Bulldogs rode a staggering 18-4 run over the next seven minutes, capped by a clutch go-ahead three-pointer by Azjah Bass, to go up 64-63 with 2:07 to play.
A steal by Tara Miller just seconds later gave Butler the ball back with a chance to build on the lead, but a missed free throw and a Bulldog foul sent the Ramblers to the line where Jessica Hylton put Loyola back in front with a pair of makes.
Butler regained possession with 19 seconds on the clock and a chance to retake the lead, but a lay-up attempt by Miller fell off the rim and a Bulldog foul sent the Ramblers back to the free throw line.
The Bulldogs got a break when the Ramblers were unable to convert both tosses, but Shannon Finnegan nabbed the offensive board which forced Butler to foul once more. After Keisha Collins made both attempts to put Loyola up three with five seconds to go, Butler pushed the ball up the floor but was unable to put up the potential game-tying trey before the final horn sounded.
The defeat sends the Bulldogs to 15-7 on the year and 5-6 in Horizon League play, while Loyola improves to a 5-17 overall record and a 3-8 league mark.
Butler had to play catch-up for most of the game despite a fast start for Lade Akande. After putting up the game's first points on a lay-up, Akande followed with three more field goals for eight points in the opening seven minutes.
Loyola steadily pulled ahead thanks to a remarkably efficient shooting display from the field. Despite being only taking 21 attempts from the field in the first period, the Ramblers managed to convert 12 of their attempts (57 percent) to help them go up by as much as 14 (34-20) with just over a minute to go in the period.
A jumper by Bass and a lay-in by Miller cut the Butler deficit to 10 at the break, while a five-point outburst to start the second, keyed by a Candyce Brown triple and a Susan Lester lay-up, brought the Bulldogs to within five at 34-29.
A 9-2 jaunt by the Ramblers, however, pushed the Loyola margin back to 13 just four minutes later. Butler rallied back once again, trimming the lead back down to seven, but the Ramblers continued to have an answer for seemingly every comeback attempt and found themselves up by 13 again with just over 10 minutes remaining.
That's when Butler got a huge boost from both Bass and Melanie Thornton, as the duo combined to score 16 of the team's 20 points during the furious seven-minute rally that put the Bulldogs back in front for the final time.
Akande finished with a team-high 16 points, going 6-for-9 from the field, and adding three steals. Bass tallied 10 points and a team-best five picks, while Thornton chipped in eight.
The Ramblers went 22-for-38 from the field for a Butler opponent season-high 57.9 field goal percentage. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, shot just 37.1 percent (23-for-62).
Despite the losing effort, Butler held a dominant 23-to-5 edge on points off turnovers as well as a 36-to-20 margin on points in the paint.
The Bulldogs return to the road on Thursday (Feb. 14) when they take on Milwaukee beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET at the Klotsche Center.