Milwaukee, Wis. - Butler spotted itself to a 22-point halftime advantage with a 44-point opening frame - and it would need every last bit of it, as host Milwaukee scored 51 in the second period to close the gap to one before the Bulldogs held on for a 75-73 victory at the Klotsche Center on Thursday (Feb. 14) evening.
Susan Lester tallied her seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Lade Akande added 22 points and eight rebounds as the Bulldogs improved to 16-7 on the year and 6-6 in Horizon League play. The Panthers, meanwhile, fall to 12-11 overall and 7-5 in the conference.
An explosive opening frame spotted the Bulldogs a 22-point advantage at the break, with Akande and Lester totaling 32 of Butler's 44 first-period points.
The Bulldogs' preseason all-league tandem combined for the squad's first 10 points of the game before a trey by Tara Miller put Butler in front by six at 13-7.
Milwaukee battled back to a deadlock at 15-15 with just over 10 minutes to play in the first, before the Bulldogs erupted for a 16-4 run, driven by nine points from Akande and five from Lester, to give them a 31-19 lead with less than five minutes to go.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Lester pushed the margin out to 15 before jumpers by Azjah Bass, Candace Bain and Candyce Brown completed a 13-0 run to close the half and give the Bulldogs a 44-22 lead at the break.
Then Milwaukee found its shooting touch.
The Panthers shot 61.1 percent from the field in the second half, including 7-for-11 from three point range, to all but wipe out the Bulldogs' first period margin.
An 8-0 Panther run to start the second quickly trimmed the deficit to 14. By the 12:07 mark, the lead was cut to 11 points and Milwaukee had already matched its entire first half output with 22 points in less than an eight minute span.
Lay-ins by Lester and Candace Jones pushed the Bulldogs back ahead by 15 with 8:02 remaining, but a 12-3 surge by Milwaukee brought the game to within six points with just over five minutes to play.
Butler once again tried to pull away late, as a three-pointer by Jones put the Bulldogs ahead 72-63 with less than two minutes left, but eight unanswered points by Milwaukee brought the Panthers to the brink of a comeback with 44 ticks on the clock.
Milwaukee would get no closer, however, as Miller split a pair of free throws, Bass converted a pair of tosses and the Bulldogs got a clutch defensive stop in the final seconds to secure the victory.
Butler dominated Milwaukee in the paint, out-scoring the Panthers 42-28 under the basket, and cashed in 22 UWM turnovers into 24 points.
Lester went 9-for-18 from the field, including 3-of-6 from long range, while Akande netted 9-of-16 from the floor. Bass and Miller finished with nine points each, both coming on 3-for-5 shooting.
The Bulldogs return to action on Saturday (Feb. 16) when they take on Horizon League leading Green Bay beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET at the Kress Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.