INDIANAPOLIS – Rounding out its stay in the state of Indiana, Western Illinois women’s basketball (1-1, 0-0) visited Butler (0-2, 0-0) for a Saturday early afternoon tilt in the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Sharp shooting and stellar defense led to a big 73-46 win over the Bulldogs, giving Western its first victory of the winter season.
The win was WIU’s first over Butler since Dec. 19, 2001, which was also the last time the program defeated a Big East school.
“It is always huge for our program to win these money games,” acknowledged head coach JD Gravina. “It was a risk starting off our season with ACC and Big East games. But kidding, a win really helps us build confidence. We moved the ball better tonight and also moved without the ball. Also, obviously, making the 16 three-pointers did not hurt. We are excited to get back to Western Hall!”
Getting stops and pushing the ball in fast breaks helped WIU go up 8-4 in the afternoon’s early portion, as Butler missed its first several attempts from three-point territory. After the team forced a couple of turnovers, back-to-back triples from Mallory McDermott extended the Leathernecks’ lead to 14-6. She and fellow sophomore Anna Deets added outside baskets before the first period ended, ahead of 20-9.
A 7-0 run by Danni Nichols and Evan Zars combined began the second, as Western continued its hot scoring — 50% from the field. Deets knocked down two more three-pointers, and the ‘Necks saw themselves up 35-14. Defense also proved a difference-maker in how Butler shot only 30% and had seven turnovers midway in the quarter. Going through a scoring drought in over 2.5 minutes, the Bulldogs scored six during the stretch, but a free throw from Zars ended the cold play. McDermott scored her fourth trey before halftime arrived with the Leathernecks in front, 41-22. The bench scored 21 first-half points for WIU.
Butler started the second half in a better groove, plugging in a 7-0 run in less than two minutes. Still leading 44-29, Elizabeth Lutz gave WIU a much-needed three from the right corner, and Nichols scored immediately after — upping the lead to 20. Much of the same continued for Western, as Lutz made a pair of corner baskets and found her teammates for others, ending the third on an impressive note, 59-35.
Nichols and Lutz kept controlling the attack in the final quarter, making impressive plays on both ends. Seeing contributions from all across the roster, WIU pieced a 13-3 run throughout five minutes, as Butler could not find the bottom of the net for three minutes. Butler totaled seven straight points in the final minutes but was ultimately routed on its home floor.
Four players reached double-figures in scoring for the Leathernecks, as McDermott’s 12 points were a new career-best. Nichols’ 16 led all scorers, while Lutz posted a nice stat line of 13 points (4-8 3 FG), five rebounds, and seven assists. Zars fell just short of a double-double with eight points and a game-high 11 rebounds, including two blocks. Deets finished with 12 points on 4-7 shooting from deep. Nichols and Jada Thorpe impressed defensively with four steals apiece.
Western tallied a noteworthy 42% team field goal percentage while holding Butler to just over 27%.
A home opener arrives next Wednesday (Nov. 17) for Western, as the squad hosts Chicago State at 6 p.m. CT. for the first of a three-game homestand.