Indianapolis, Ind. - The Bulldogs turned to their long-range offense for the second straight game, as Butler hit 10 three pointers in the game before using a stifling defensive effort in the final minutes to come back for a 66-58 victory over visiting Valparaiso on Saturday (March 8) afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The win is the Bulldogs' 20th of the year.
Butler (20-9, 10-8 Horizon League) finished with a 40.4 percent effort from the field (21-for-52) while tying its season-high with 10 treys. After shooting 41.4 percent in the opening frame, Valparaiso hit just 30.8 percent (8-for-26) in the second, including a 1-for-9 mark from beyond the arc.
The Crusaders controlled the tempo through much of the first half, building up as much as a nine-point advantage at 33-24 with less than six minutes to go in the period.
Butler came racing back in the final minutes of the stanza, riding an 8-2 surge to cut the deficit to three before a triple by Candace Jones with 23 seconds to go evened the scoring up at 35-35 heading into the locker room.
After battling back and forth through the first six minutes of the second before a three-pointer by Cassie Freeman put the Bulldogs in front by two at 46-44. Back-to-back lay-ups by the Crusaders put Valpo back ahead by two, but another trey from Freeman followed by a triple from Jones put Butler ahead by four.
The long range shooting continued, with Melanie Thornton hitting her first of the season before Freeman canned her third of the half as the Bulldogs steadily pulled ahead to a 58-52 lead with 6:29 to go.
A lay-up by Sarah Ott brought the Crusaders back to within four just seconds later, but it would be their final points for the next six minutes, as Valpo went 0-for-6 from the field with three turnovers before hitting their final shot of the afternoon with 11 seconds left.
By that point, however, the game was all but out of reach, as four points from Thornton put Butler ahead by eight before free throws by Candyce Brown and Brittany Bowen in the final minute sealed the win.
Lade Akande led the Bulldogs with 15 points and seven rebounds, while Freeman hit a team-high four three-pointers for 12 points. Brown also finished in double-figures with 11 points.
Tara Miller added seven points, six rebounds and a team-high five assists, Jones chipped in eight points and five boards and Thornton tallied seven points and six rebounds.
The Bulldogs continued to take advantage of opponents' miscues, converting 14 Valparaiso turnovers into 20 points while allowing just eight off of 12 turnovers.
With the win, Butler will enter the Horizon League Championship with a 10-8 league mark and can finish as high as the No. 4 seed in the tournament with a loss by Cleveland State to Loyola on Saturday (March 8) afternoon.