March 3, 2007
Indianapolis, Ind. - Four Butler players finished with double-figure scoring totals, led by freshman Susan Lester's seventh double-double of the year, and the Bulldogs (14-14, 11-5 Horizon League) held off a furious Cleveland State offense in claiming an 83-79 victory over the Vikings (8-21, 5-11 HL) on Saturday (March 3) at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The win gives the Bulldogs their most Horizon League victories since the 1997-98 squad finished 13-1 in conference play.
Meanwhile, senior Jackie Closser became the Bulldogs' all-time leader in minutes played in convincing fashion, playing the full 40 minutes of the contest while passing Butler Hall of Famer Mary Majewski-Shaw's total of 3,607 minutes played. Closser, who entered the contest needing just 11 minutes to pass the mark, currently touts 3,637 minutes in her career.
The Bulldogs looked as if they would run away with the game in the early going, putting on an offensive display in the first eight minutes by running ahead to a 24-7 lead with 12:35 to play in the period. Butler connected on five three pointers during the stretch, including a pair by Closser.
The Vikings, however, came racing back on the heals of a 15-3 run over the next five minutes before taking the lead at 31-29 on a three-pointer by Robyn Hoying with 3:59 to go in the half. Another triple from Kailey Klein just 30 seconds later pushed the Vikings ahead by three, but the Bulldogs fought back to tie the game at 36-36 at the break.
The game remained tight throughout the early part of the second half, as the two teams traded leads six times in the first six minutes. An 11-2 run by Butler built the Bulldog advantage to seven at 59-52 with less than 12 minutes remaining, but the Vikings came right back to tie the game at 61-61 with a 9-2 surge of their own.
Cleveland State continued to answer every Butler attack, tying the game seven times over the next five minutes before a pair of jumpers by Nicole Thomas gave the Vikings a three-point edge at 79-76 with 1:22 to play.
After Tara Miller netted a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to one, Closser converted a lay-up and bonus free-throw after being fouled with 25 seconds on the clock to give the Bulldogs the go-ahead points. A strong defensive stand in the ensuing possession kept the Vikings off the board, while two more free throws from Closser iced the game in the final seconds.
Lester notched her second-straight double-double and team-leading seventh of the season, leading the team with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Closser finished just shy of her second double-double of the year and first double-figure rebounding effort of her career, netting 15 points and a career-best nine boards. She touts the Horizon League's only points-assists double-double of the season, scoring 14 points and dishing 11 assists against Bradley on Nov. 17.
Meanwhile, Miller could hardly miss in the game, going 5-of-6 from the field, 3-of-3 from beyond the arc and 4-of-4 from the line to finish with 17 points. Akande also registered double-figures, posting 11 points and five boards.
Klein led all scorers with 26 points and nine rebounds, while Chenara Wilson (19), Brittany Korth (11) and Nicole Thomas (10) finished in double-figures.
Prior to the game, Butler recognized its three graduating seniors - Closser, Ellen Hamilton and Carla Gheorghe. The trio represented the first graduating recruiting class of head coach Beth Couture as the head mentor of the Bulldogs.
Although Butler will be the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Championship, the Bulldogs have a chance to finish the regular season in a tie for second place with UIC (18-10, 11-4 HL). A loss by the Flames at UW-Green Bay on Saturday (March 3) night would give the Bulldogs their best league finish since the 1997-98 squad won the regular season title. UIC holds the tie-breaker for the No. 2 seed in the tournament, however, by virtue of a 2-0 record over Butler in the regular season.
The Bulldogs open up post-season play on Wednesday (March 7), hosting the No. 6 seed in the tournament beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse.