NORMAL — The Butler University women's basketball team understandably made extensive use of a zone defense against an Illinois State squad shooting under 20 percent from 3-point range Sunday at Redbird Arena.
Yet the Bulldogs weren't exactly giving away free looks beyond the arc, either.
Butler's sticky defense limited the Redbirds to 25.5 percent shooting to pave the way for the Bulldogs' 56-45 victory before a crowd of 613.
"It was a game plan of ours to get in that (zone) early. We saw that shooting percentage and wanted to keep them on the perimeter as much as possible," Butler coach Kurt Godlevske said. "We worked after our last game on making sure we contested everything. I thought our girls did a much better job of that."
After Hannah Green's driving bucket opened the scoring, ISU (3-3) missed 14 of its next 15 shots.
Butler (5-4) stormed to a 17-5 advantage through one quarter as Michelle Weaver tossed in a pair of 3-pointers.
"I think Butler was the best team we've faced thus far," said Redbird coach Kristen Gillespie. "We knew it was going to take a great team defensive effort, and I just don't think we quite had it where we needed to have it. We didn't have that edge."
The Bulldogs led 25-10 after a Whitney Jennings 3-pointer and carried a 31-16 margin into halftime.
"We knew Illinois State does a great job of defending and making things very difficult on you," Godlevske said. "As we got going the first half, I thought we did a great job capitalizing on the transition game and a fantastic job limiting them to one shot early."
Butler scored the final five points of the third quarter to bolster its cushion to 48-28.
"The zone definitely hurt us a lot," said ISU junior guard Katrina Beck. "We hadn't really seen 40 minutes of zone this year yet. At first, we were playing really passive. That took us out of our offense."
Beck scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter as the Redbirds whittled their deficit as low as 11.
"I couldn't be more proud of our young women for continuing to stay the course and fight. We want to be competitors," Gillespie said. "We still held them 16 points below their average. That's something to be proud of. There were a lot of positives."
Green led the Redbirds with 18 points but coaxed in just 5 of 19 shots from the floor.
"They triple-teamed and double-teamed (inside)," Green said. "That's something we have to adjust to and be able to play out of."
Tori Schickel, Weaver and Kristen Spolyar scored 12 points apiece to top Butler. Schickel's 11 rebounds sparked the Bulldogs to a 41-35 edge on the boards.
Megan Talbot secured nine rebounds and Green eight for ISU.