The Butler women’s basketball team ended its two-game Chicago trip with a 60-57 Horizon League win over Loyola of Chicago on Saturday.
For the Bulldogs (7-11, 3-4), the victory was their first on the road this season.
“We have played some away games that were pretty close and could have gone any way,” coach Beth Couture said. “Now that we have won one, I think the pressure is off of us. I think the kids were ready, but it had not rolled our way until Saturday.”
The Bulldogs started the game neck and neck with the Ramblers (9-10, 4-4), but two 3-pointers from Loyola junior forward Abby Skube gave the squad a 16-9 advantage.
The Ramblers used that momentum to build a 31-18 lead by halftime.
Butler ended the first half shooting 22 percent from the field, a far cry from Loyola’s 42 percent mark. The shooting discrepancy put the Bulldogs down by as many as 17 points in the first 20 minutes.
“They are a 3-point-shooting team, and we knew if we let them shoot or make a lot of threes, it was going to be hard for us to score with them,” Couture said. “We gave them five 3-pointers in the first half, and that was really the difference.”
In the second half, sophomore center Sarah Hamm led a rally that eventually cut Loyola’s lead to one point. Hamm finished the game with a team-high 18 points and eight rebounds.
“[Sarah] has really stepped it up, and her ability to flat out score inside and out is a huge key to us winning games,” junior forward Becca Bornhorst said. “She has been knocking down threes consistently, which makes her harder to guard.”
The Bulldogs took a 58-56 lead with 1:26 remaining in the game on a layup by freshman guard Hannah Douglas.
The Ramblers were unable to rally, giving Butler its fourth conference victory.
Hamm also led the team with a career-high 23 points in the team’s 77-42 loss at Illinois-Chicago on Thursday.
Despite leading all Bulldogs in scoring, Hamm said she was disappointed in the team’s overall performance.
“Individual performance did not matter in that game because we did not perform well as a team,” Hamm said. “Our team needs to be focused and more tuned in to the game plan.”
Despite Butler’s losing record, Couture said Hamm’s scoring has become an asset to the team.
“She has just continued to improve since right before Christmas,” Couture said. “She has really taken her game to the next level. She is a force inside the guard, which has really opened some things up for us inside.”
Couture also said that the team lagged behind in shooting against the Flames (12-7, 5-3) and that UIC’s 46 rebounds helped them to control the ball.
“It was one of those games where we were not even close to being at our best and they played at pretty much their best,” Couture said. “Even things we could control we just could not get a grasp on. I do not want us to play like that ever again.”
Couture said the Bulldogs will now turn their attention to their next game, a home contest against nationally-ranked Green Bay on Thursday.
“I think we will have to play pressure-free,” Couture said. “Hopefully the girls will go out there pressure-free and have some fun and see what happens when the stress is not on us.”
The game will start at 7 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse.