Bulldogs Host Hot Cleveland State Team

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FAMILIAR FOE:  Butler, coming off a successful road trip, will try to continue its momentum at home when it hosts surging Cleveland State on Thursday, Jan. 14.  The key Horizon League contest is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse and will be televised in Indianapolis on WNDY 23.  The Bulldogs have faced Cleveland State more times (6) than any other league opponent over the past two seasons.  The two teams have met in each of the last two Horizon League Tournament championship games, and each captured a tournament crown.  Cleveland State (7-10, 3-2 Horizon League) is the last team to beat the Bulldogs in Hinkle Fieldhouse, winning last year’s league title game, 57-54.  That contest was one of only two home losses suffered by the Bulldogs in 2008-09.  Cleveland State brings a three-game winning streak to Indianapolis, including a home sweep of Loyola and UIC last weekend.  Butler (12-4, 5-0 HL) has won four straight games, all against Horizon League foes, and is coming off back-to-back road wins over league contenders Wright State (77-65) and Detroit (64-62 OT).  The two road wins kept Butler in sole possession of first place in the league standings.

HOME RULE:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first six home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 63 of its last 69 games in Hinkle Fieldhouse, including 27 of its last 29 league contests.  The Bulldogs posted a 125-17 (.880) record on their homecourt over the past decade (2000-09).

The Bulldogs are 35-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler climbed to No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s victories over Wright State and Detroit, and the Bulldogs continue to receive votes in the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25.”  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” of the two national polls each year since 2006-07.

MID-MAJOR LOOK:  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:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack scored the go-ahead basket with just under a minute remaining in overtime and the Bulldogs survived a desperation three-point field goal attempt at the buzzer to pull out a 64-62 victory over host Detroit in a showdown for first place in the Horizon League.  Butler, which led the Titans by as many as seven points in the second half, needed a free throw from sophomore Gordon Hayward with 0:00.4 left in regulation to send the game into overtime.  Hayward then hit a clutch three-point field goal midway through the overtime period to tie the game at 60-60, and sophomore Ronald Nored hit a pair of free throws with 2:43 left to tie the game again at 62-62, setting up Mack’s game-winning shot.  The victory at Detroit came less than 48 hours after Butler posted a 77-65 win at Wright State in another league first place showdown.  It was Wright State’s first home loss of the season.        

Butler is 5-0 in the Horizon League for the second straight year.

LEAD CHANGE:  Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward took turns leading the Bulldogs in scoring on the recent two-game road swing.  Mack led all players with 21 points at Wright State, while Hayward added 20.  It was the second time this season that the Bulldogs have had two players score 20 points in a game.  Hayward then paced the Bulldogs at Detroit with 17 points, while Mack added 10.  One (or both) of the two second-year players has led the Bulldogs in scoring in 15 of 16 games this season, including the past 12 in a row.

Gordon Hayward has topped the Bulldogs in scoring in four of six home games.

WARMING UP:  Butler continued a trend it started at home in its victory over Milwaukee with strong second-half shooting performances in its wins at Wright State and Detroit.   The Bulldogs shot 57.7% (15-26) in the second half of their win over Milwaukee, after hitting just 35.7% in the first 20 minutes.  At Wright State, Butler shot 57.9% (11-19) in the final 20 minutes, and at Detroit the Bulldogs hit at a 55.6% (10-18) in the second half.  Butler remained hot in the overtime period, hitting three of five (60%) shots.

Butler is shooting .567 in the second half of its last three games.
 
BALANCING ACT:  Butler had four players score in double-figures in each of its wins at Wright State and Detroit.  Shelvin Mack (21), Gordon Hayward (20), Willie Veasley (12) and Matt Howard (10) each hit for double-figures at Wright State, and then Hayward posted 17 at Detroit, while Mack, Howard and Veasley each added 10.  It was the sixth and seventh times this season that at least four Bulldogs have hit twin-digits in a game.  Butler had five players hit for double-figures in its victory over Valparaiso.

CHARITABLE EFFORT:  Butler hit a season-best .958 (23-24) from the free throw line against Wright State, before slipping to 70% (14-20) at Detroit.  The two games left the Bulldogs in second place in the Horizon League with a .753 team free throw percentage.  The free throw performance at Wright State was the best by a Butler team since January of 2007, when the Bulldogs hit 24 of 25 (.960) charity tosses in a victory over Green Bay.

Butler is shooting a league-best .791 from the free throw line in conference play.

BOARD WORK:  The Bulldogs have out-rebounded three of their last four opponents and 10 foes on the season.  Butler has a +9.0 rebounding margin in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

POINTING UP:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal in the Bulldogs’ home victory over Ohio State.  His 20 points in Butler’s two road games last week boosted his career scoring total to 1,064 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 22 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.
 
BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler has won its first six home games this season by an average of 12.1 points per game.  The Bulldogs have averaged 75.3 points at home, while yielding 63.2.

•The Bulldogs, ninth in the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.422), are hitting at a 46.3% clip in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 13.7 points in six career games against Cleveland State.  He had 14 points in last year’s Horizon League Tournament championship game.

•Matt Howard ranks second among active Horizon League players in career scoring (1,064 points).

•Matt Howard played a career-high 43 minutes in Butler’s victory at Detroit.  His previous high was 38 minutes against both Detroit and Northwestern.

•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 (83), while Matt Howard (76) stands second.  Hayward is fourth in the league in free throw percentage (.856), while Howard is seventh (.809).

•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 six games, and he narrowly missed a fourth at Wright State.

Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-best 18.3 points in Butler’s six games at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He’s shooting 56.3% at home. 

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 17 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Shelvin Mack has had 15 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Butler is 18-4 when Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 12-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Shelvin Mack scored a team-high 18 points and grabbed a career-high nine rebounds in last year’s league tournament championship game against Cleveland State.

•Shelvin Mack has led the Bulldogs with a 17.5 scoring average during the team’s current four-game winning streak.  Gordon Hayward (16.5) is second in scoring during winning the streak.

•Senior Willie Veasley scored a career-high 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in Butler’s victory over Cleveland State at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored hit nine of 10 free throws in Butler’s wins over Wright State and Detroit.  Nored began the road trip as a 50% career free throw shooter.

•Ronald Nored posted his career scoring-high with 11 points against Cleveland State in last year’s win at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Nored has made six of six field goal attempts against Cleveland State in the Fieldhouse.

•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.