PHILADELPHIA – No. 11 seed Saint Louis overcame a 10-point deficit early in the second half and defeated No. 6 Butler 44-41 Friday night in the opening round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship at Hagan Arena on the Saint Joseph’s University campus.
The Billikens (12-18) – who won for a third time in A-10 Championship play, all as a No. 11 seed – advance to play third-seeded Fordham (22-7) in the quarterfinals Saturday at 6:30 p.m. (CT). Butler fell to 17-13.
Coupled with last year’s victory over Charlotte, Saint Louis has captured an A-10 Championship win in consecutive years for the first time in program history.
Additionally, the Billikens set a school record for opponents held to fewer than 50 points. Butler is the 11th SLU opponent this season to fall short of the 50-point mark.
Jacy Bradley and Lorreal Jones scored 12 points apiece and Mallory Eggert added 10 for the Billikens. Jones and Eggert grabbed eight and seven rebounds, respectively, to lead SLU to a 41-38 advantage on the boards.
Butler was led by Liz Stratman (13 points, five blocks); Daress McClung (12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks, three steals); Taylor Schippers (five assists); and Mandy McDivitt (seven rebounds).
Saint Louis outscored Butler 15-6 from the free-throw line.
“Our players showed their hearts tonight,” head coach Lisa Stone said. “I asked them if their hearts were telling them they wanted to stay and play another day, and the answer was yes.
“When our offense was struggling in the first half, our defense kept us in the game,” Stone said. “Daress McClung is a handful, but I thought we did a pretty decent job defending her. It was a battle the entire game, and I’m very proud of our players. Everyone contributed in some way.”
Following a first half in which the teams combined to shoot 10-of-54 from the field, Butler held an 18-10 lead. The Bulldogs made it 20-10 when Schippers hit a runner on BU’s initial second-half possession.
After the teams traded misses, Saint Louis caught fire. The Billikens scored on six consecutive possessions in an 11-0 run that put them on top.
Jones ignited the spurt with an offensive rebound and put-back. Eggert followed with a layup, and Bradley made a layup off a baseline out-of-bounds play.
Eggert muscled for a layup and followed by making one of two free throws. A layup by Jones gave the Billikens a 21-20 lead, their first advantage since 6-4.
Ten more lead changes followed. Jones provided the final swap by netting two free throws for a 36-35 Billiken advantage at the 5:16 mark. Her short jumper and a layup by Desirae Ball capped a 6-0 flurry that made it 40-35 Saint Louis with 3:49 remaining.
Butler went to the foul line on its next two possessions but made just two of four. However, the Bulldogs narrowed the SLU lead to 40-39 on Stratman’s layup with 27 seconds to play.
That’s when Bradley took over, making two free throws and adding two more following Schippers’ driving layup. Stratman’s 3-point attempt to send the game into overtime was off the mark.
In other first-round action, No. 8 George Washington defeated No. 9 Richmond 59-53; No. 5 Duquesne downed No. 12 VCU 64-58; and No. 10 Temple topped No. 7 Xavier 52-45.
Preceding SLU and Fordham in Saturday’s quarterfinals are No. 1 Dayton vs. George Washington at 11 a.m. (CT); No. 4 Saint Joseph’s vs. Duquesne at 1:30 p.m. (CT); and No. 2 Charlotte vs. Temple at 4 p.m. (CT).