Indianapolis, Ind. - Susan Lester scored a career-high 28 points, including 24 in the second half, and Lade Akande tallied the 1,000th point of her career as the Bulldogs (7-1) held on down the stretch to claim a hard-fought 81-75 victory over Evansville on Thursday (Dec. 6) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler appeared to have the game in control late in the game, as the Bulldogs held a 14-point advantage at 69-55 with 3:29 remaining, but the Purple Aces (4-4) rallied back thanks to a 15-4 run to close the gap to 73-70 with less than a minute to go.
Evansville would get no closer, however, as the Bulldogs calmly converted 8-of-10 shots from the free throw line in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
The Purple Aces raced out to a 10-point advantage early in the contest, building up a 12-2 lead just over five minutes in.
Butler would come roaring back on a 17-4 run over the next five minutes, as Akande tallied 10 points to bring the game even at 16-16 before Candace Jones registered a three-pointer the old fashioned way for a three-point Bulldog lead with 10:01 to go.
The two squads battled through four lead changes and four ties over the ensuing minutes before Azjah Bass drained a three-pointer with 2:09 to go in the period to put Butler up 32-29.
A lay-in by Akande 37 seconds later put the Bulldogs up by five and gave the 6-1 center her milestone points before a lay-up by Shannon Novosel sent the clubs into the locker room with Butler leading 34-31.
The two teams came out after the break firing up shots from long range, as six of the first seven field goals came from beyond the arc.
After a three-pointer by Felke 20 seconds into the second period brought the game even for the sixth time of the evening, the Bulldogs reeled off three-straight treys from Tara Miller, Lester and Candyce Brown to push ahead by seven at 43-36.
Back-to-back triples from Evansville cut the advantage to one before Felke sank two free throws for a one-point Purple Aces lead.
A three-pointer from Felke at 12:48 put Evansville in front 47-45, but, thanks to Lester, it would be the last time the Purple Aces would sniff the lead.
Over the next nine minutes, Lester would take control of the game, scoring 20 points on three lay-ups, two three-pointers and eight free throws to help key a 29-8 Butler run and give the Bulldogs a 14-point edge with 3:29 to play.
Evansville would cut the lead to three over the next two minutes, but clutch free throws by Jones, Azjah Bass and Miller secured the Butler win.
Akande scored 14 of her 18 points in the first half, including her milestone-eclipsing points with 1:32 to go in the opening period.
Lester finished with a 7-for-12 mark from the field, including three three-pointers, and an impressive 11-for-13 mark from the line. She also added a team-high and season-best nine rebounds.
Bass notched a career-best 15 points, going 4-for-7 from the field, 3-for-4 from long range and a smooth 4-of-4 from the stripe. Jones chipped in 10 points, including 6-of-7 shooting from the line, and added seven boards. Brown dished a team-high five assists.
Following a week off of competition for finals, the Bulldogs return to action on Sunday (Dec. 16) when they host Tennessee State beginning at 3:00 p.m.