March 1, 2006

Defense and Free Throws Key 58-45 Tournament Win Over Detroit

March 1, 2006

Box Score

Despite its second-worst shooting performance of the season, Butler used a tough defensive effort and pinpoint accuracy at the free throw line to down Detroit, 58-45, in a Horizon League Tournament quarterfinal contest Wednesday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Freshman Lade Akande led the Bulldogs with 24 points, as fourth-seeded Butler advances to the semifinals and improves its record to 15-13. Detroit, the tournament's fifth seed, ends its season at 11-17.

Butler shot just 33 percent from the field and hit only 3-of-17 three-point attempts, but the Bulldogs' defense held Detroit to 32-percent accuracy. Detroit's field goal percentage was a season-low for a Butler opponent. Despite hitting only 14 field goals, the Bulldogs went 27-of-33 (82 percent) from the free throw line, including 17-of-18 after the intermission.

Akande led the Bulldogs with 24 points on 9-of-16 shooting. She added five rebounds. Freshman Candyce Brown had a game-high nine rebounds for Butler to go along with six points, six assists and one block in 35 minutes of action.

"Obviously, Lade was big for us in the post tonight," said Butler coach Beth Couture. "She was strong with the ball and made some key plays for us. Candyce really stepped up for us. She's been sick, she didn't have a great practice yesterday, but she was the difference for us tonight. She hit the boards and she took some of the pressure off Jackie (Closser) by dribbling the ball up against Detroit's full-court pressure."

Jackie Closser had 10 points for Butler, the only Bulldog besides Akande in double figures. Most of her damage came at the line where she was 7-of-8. Sophomore Cassie Freeman had nine points and seven rebounds.

No Detroit player reached double figures, as Katie Solner and Kandace Evans each had nine points. Detroit's four seniors in the starting line-up - Solner, Lindsey Pasquinzo, Caitie Goddard and Joanna Cooper - were held to combined 9-of-35 (.257) shooting from the field. The Titans' 45 points were 10 points fewer than the previous low for a Butler opponent this season (55 by Youngstown State, Dec. 29).

Both teams particularly struggled from the field in the first half, as Detroit's full-court press disrupted Butler's rhythm and the Bulldogs' match-up zone contested every Titan attempt. Neither team could break the 30-percent shooting barrier in the first 20 minutes, as Butler used 10 free throws and Detroit had 10 offensive rebounds to head to the locker room with the Bulldogs leading 24-20.

Butler never relinquished the lead after the break, but the game was far closer than the 13-point final margin. An Evans fast-break lay-up with 9:08 to play pulled the Titans within two at 34-32 before Butler went on a 13-3 run over the next seven minutes to put the game out of reach at 47-35. The run was highlighted by an Ellen Hamilton three-pointer - Butler's only trey of the second half - with 3:27 to play to give the Bulldogs a 10-point advantage.

Butler's season-low shooting performance came Jan. 4 at IUPUI, when the Bulldogs hit just .277 from the field. Butler's three three-pointers are the fewest since Feb. 5, 2005, when the team had three against Cleveland State. That's a span of 36 games. The Bulldogs entered the game as the nation's third-most prolific three-point shooting team at 7.89 bombs per game.

The game was played in front of a crowd of better than 500, including a strong contingent of Butler students. Fans received free Butler Basketball t-shirts at the game and students enjoyed free pizza during halftime. A group of students rushed the floor at the final buzzer, as Butler won in its first home game under the Horizon League's restructured tournament schedule that has higher seeds host early-round tournament games. The format went into effect in 2004.

The Bulldogs continue on to the semifinals of the 2006 Horizon League Tournament Sunday afternoon. Butler will take on the winner of Thursday's tilt between top seed UW-Milwaukee and eighth-seeded Loyola. If UWM wins that match-up, Sunday's semifinal is set for Milwaukee; if Loyola were to knock off UW-Milwaukee, the tournament shifts to the winner of Thursday's UW-Green Bay-Youngstown State quarterfinal. Butler's semifinal game will be available live online at both www.butlersports.com and www.horizonleague.com, in addition to being shown live in Indianapolis on the Comcast Cable System. Check back to www.butlersports.com over the next few days for a tip time and specific Comcast channel information.