January 9, 2010

Bulldogs Visit Detroit For First Place Showdown

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LEAGUE LEADERS:  For the second time in less than 48 hours, Butler will play a road game in the Horizon League with first place in the league standings on the line.  Butler (11-4, 4-0 Horizon League) and Detroit (11-5, 4-1 HL), the top two teams in the current league standings, will square off in a first place showdown at Detroit’s Calihan Hall on Sunday, Jan. 10, at 1 p.m. (ET).  The game will be televised on Fox Sports Detroit and Fox Sports Indiana.  Butler remained unbeaten in conference play and held on to the top spot in the league with a 77-65 victory at Wright State on Friday (Jan. 8).  The win snapped Wright State’s nine-game, homecourt winning streak and dropped the Raiders (10-6, 3-2) into fourth place in the league standings.  Detroit kept pace with a 77-67 victory at home over Valparaiso in a nationally-televised contest on Friday.  The Titans, who’ve won four straight home games and boast a 7-1 record in Calihan Hall this season, trail Butler by just one-half game in the league standings.  Butler is 4-1 in road games this season.

FIELD TESTED:  The 2010 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings listed Butler’s preconference schedule as the fourth toughest in the nation.  The Bulldogs played #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson in a four-day period at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., and #15/13 Georgetown at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.  Butler defeated #13/15 Ohio State and the Bulldogs faced Northwestern and UAB, both later earning a “Top 25” ranking.

Butler’s four losses have come to teams that currently have a combined 47-11 record.

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler slipped to No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s victories over Green Bay and Milwaukee, and the Bulldogs are receiving votes in the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25” for the second straight week.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

MORE POLLING:  Butler remains third behind Northern Iowa and Gonzaga in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week. The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com prior to their loss at UAB on Dec. 22.  Butler had been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll for the first eight weeks of the rankings.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward combined for 41 points to lead Butler to a 77-65 victory over Wright State in front of a capacity crowd at the Nutter Center on Friday (Jan. 8).  Mack scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half to help Butler pull away to a 37-26 halftime lead.  Hayward tallied 16 of his 20 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs stretch the final margin.  Wright State led just once in the game (9-7) and the contest was tied just twice (7-7 and 9-9), before Mack gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 12-9 with the first of his three three-point field goals in the game.  The Bulldogs led by as many as 15 points in the second half, before Wright State cut the margin to five points with a late charge.  But the Bulldogs held on for their fourth straight Horizon League victory by hitting eight of eight shots from the free throw line in the final 3:38.        

Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward have combined for 41 points in two straight games.

HOT STREAK:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack has led Butler in scoring in three consecutive games for the first time in his young career. The 6-3 guard earned Horizon League Player of the Week honors on Monday (Jan. 4) after leading the Bulldogs to back-to-back wins over Green Bay and Milwaukee.  He led all scorers with 14 points against previous league-leader Green Bay, and then he came back less than 48 hours later with a career-high 25 points in Butler’s victory over Milwaukee.  His game-high 21-point performance in Butler’s win at Wright State on Friday gave him back-to-back 20-point scoring performances for just the third time in his career.  Mack has led the Bulldogs in scoring in seven games this season, and Butler has won all seven.  Butler is 12-1 all-time when Mack leads the team in scoring.

Butler is 18-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game.

MAXIMUM OUTPUT:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward attempted a season-low five shots at Wright State, but still recorded his fourth-highest scoring total (20 points) of the season.  The 6-9 forward hit three of his five shots, including one from three-point range, and he added a career-best 13 of 14 from the free throw line.  Hayward also led all players with nine rebounds.

CHARITABLE WORK:  Butler hit a season-best .958 from the free throw line against Wright State.  The Bulldogs hit all eight of their free throw attempts in the first half and then held off Wright State by cashing 15 of 16 (.938) charity tosses in the second half.  It was best single game free throw shooting performance by a team in the Horizon League this season.

Butler is shooting a league-best .791 from the free throw line in league games only.

OFF THE GLASS:  The Bulldogs have out-rebounded their last three opponents by a combined total of 108-64.  Butler out-boarded Green Bay, 39-22, Milwaukee, 38-24, and Wright State, 31-18.   The Bulldogs have had a rebounding advantage in seven of their last nine contests.

MOVING UP:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal against Ohio State.  His 10 points in Butler’s victory at Wright State boosted his career scoring total to 1,054 points, good for 29th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Avery Sheets (2002-06) in 28th place on the all-time list by 32 points.  Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves reached the milestone as a junior in 2006-07.

WOODEN WATCH:  Butler’s Gordon Hayward was named to the Midseason Top 30 List for the 2009-10 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year Trophy.  The Midseason List is based on individual excellence and team performance during the first half of the season.  Hayward is the fourth consecutive Butler player to be recognized by the Wooden Committee, following A. J. Graves (2007), Mike Green (2008) and Matt Howard (2009).  The 34th Annual Wooden Award Ceremony will take place the weekend of April 9-11, 2010. 

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler owns a 15-4 record in league road games under head coach Brad Stevens.  The 15 road wins in the past two-plus seasons are the most in the Horizon League.

•In conference games only, Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring offense (78.2), scoring margin (+16.2), field goal percentage (.497), free throw percentage (.791), three-point field goals (7.0), rebounding margin (+11.2), turnover margin (+4.3) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2).

•Junior Matt Howard made his first collegiate start in Butler’s game at Calihan Hall in 2007-08.  He wound up leading the Bulldogs with 20 points and 12 rebounds, his second collegiate double-double.

•Matt Howard ranks second among active Horizon League players in career scoring (1,054 points).

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward ranks third in the Horizon League in both scoring (16.8) and rebounding (9.1).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both categories.

•Gordon Hayward leads the Horizon League in free throws made (80), while Matt Howard (74) stands second.  Hayward is third in the league in free throw percentage (.879), while Howard is eighth (.804).

•Gordon Hayward is tied for the Horizon League lead with six double-doubles this season.  He’s had three double-doubles in Butler’s last five games, and he narrowly missed a fourth at Wright State on Friday. 

•Gordon Hayward currently leads the Horizon League in defensive rebounds (6.4), and he ranks fifth in offensive rebounds (2.7).  He’s ninth in the league in blocked shots (0.7), tied for 10th in field goal shooting (.462) and fifth in minutes played (32.9).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 16 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Shelvin Mack has had 14 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in eight games this season.

•Shelvin Mack is leading the Bulldogs in scoring away from Hinkle Fieldhouse this season with a 16.3 average.  Gordon Hayward (15.8) is second in scoring away from the Fieldhouse.

•Shelvin Mack is fourth in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (1.9), while Gordon Hayward is 10th (1.7).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored had a season-high six assists and just one turnover at Wright State.

•Ronald Nored ranks eighth in the Horizon League in steals (1.7), while teammate Willie Veasley ranks ninth (1.6).

•Senior Willie Veasley hit five of six shots and scored 12 points at Wright State.  It was his fifth double-figures scoring performance in Butler’s last six games.  Veasley has averaged just 4.7 points in six previous meeting with Detroit.

•Former Butler player A. J. Graves was one of 26 players named to the Mid-Major All-Decade Team, chosen by CollegeInsider.com.  Graves also was selected as Butler’s Player of the Decade by a fan vote at the Green Bay game.