January 15, 2010

Butler Ends Brief Homestand Against Youngstown State

WEEKEND WRAP:  Butler will close out its brief homestand and try to stretch the Horizon League’s longest current winning streak when it hosts Youngstown State on Saturday, Jan. 16.  The game at Hinkle Fieldhouse is slated for 2 p.m. (ET) and will be televised in Indianapolis on WNDY 23.  The Bulldogs improved to 13-4 on the season, 6-0 in the Horizon League with a hard-fought 64-55 decision over Cleveland State on Thursday (Jan. 14).  It was Butler’s fifth straight win, the Bulldogs longest winning streak this season and the longest active streak among Horizon League members.  Loyola owns the league’s longest overall win streak this season with seven consecutive victories, Dec. 5-31.  Butler has won its last eight Horizon League regular season games, dating back to last season.  Youngstown State had its own two-game winning streak snapped at Valparaiso, 70-66, on Thursday.  The Penguins are 7-9 on the season and 2-5 in Horizon League action.  Following Saturday’s game, Butler will face a four-game road stretch, starting at Loyola on Jan. 21. 

HOME RULE:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first seven home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 64 of its last 70 games in Hinkle Fieldhouse, including 28 of its last 30 league contests.  The Bulldogs posted a ten-year 125-17 (.880) record on their homecourt, 2000-09.

The Bulldogs are 36-3 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.”  The Bulldogs were ranked in both polls for the first seven weeks of the season and have been ranked in the ESPN/USA Today poll for 10 straight weeks.  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:  The Bulldogs shook off a slow start and closed with a big finish to polish off Cleveland State, the last team to defeat Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The visiting Vikings, who beat Butler in last year’s Horizon League Tournament championship game on the Bulldogs’ homecourt, jumped to an early advantage and led by as many as nine points on three different occasions in the first half.  Butler, fueled by sophomore Shelvin Mack, rallied to cut the visitor’s margin to one point, 31-30, at halftime and then took command in the second half, behind the one-two punch of senior Willie Veasley and sophomore Ronald Nored.  Veasley tied the game for the final time at 38-38 with a three-point field goal with 15:24 remaining and Matt Howard gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 40-38 with a lay-up at 14:26.  Butler out-scored the Vikings, 34-24, in the final 20 minutes to post the nine-point win.  Mack scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half to keep Butler in striking distance, while Veasley and Nored combined for 17 points in the second half.           

Butler is 6-0 in the Horizon League for the second straight year and for just the second time in 19 seasons.

PILLAGING PAIR:  Senior Willie Veasley and sophomore Ronald Nored ravaged the Cleveland State Vikings for the second straight year.  Veasley led the Bulldogs and matched his career-high with 16 points in the Butler win, while Nored matched his career-high of 11 points and added five assists and three steals.  Both players established their career-highs a year ago in Butler’s 58-56 victory over Cleveland State in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Veasley, who had two steals in the game, hit six of nine shots, including two of four from beyond the three-point arc.  Nored hit four of nine shots, including three of four in the second half.

CLOSING ARGUMENT:  Butler continued a trend it started at home in its victory over Milwaukee with strong second-half shooting performances in each of its last three wins.   The Bulldogs, who hit at a 57.7% (15-26) clip in the second half of their win over Milwaukee, shot 57.9% (11-19) in the final 20 minutes at Wright State, 56.5% (13-23) in the second half and overtime period at Detroit and 61.1% (11-18) in the final period against Cleveland State.

Butler is shooting .581 after halftime of its last four games.
 
THEFT RING:  Cleveland State entered the game at Butler ranked 15th in the NCAA Division I in steals (9.8 pg).  But it was the Bulldogs who should have been facing larceny charges after the contest.  Butler, led by sophomores Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored, finished with 11 thefts in the game, while Cleveland State had four.  The Butler total was the highest in the past eight games and the third-highest total of the season.  Mack tied his career-high with three steals, a total matched by Nored.

The Bulldogs have had at least 10 steals in seven games this season.

QUICK RECOVERY:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens didn’t know until hours before tip-off whether his leading scorer, Gordon Hayward, would play against Cleveland State.  Hayward was hospitalized on the morning of the game with an upper respiratory infection.  The 6-9 sophomore was cleared to play, and, though he later admitted to feeling “sluggish,” he wound up with eight points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in 30 minutes of action.

Gordon Hayward has started 49 straight games, every game of his Butler career.

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 26 points in Butler’s past three games boosted his career scoring total to 1,070 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 16 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 seven home games this season by an average of 11.7 points per game.  The Bulldogs have averaged 73.7 points at home, while yielding 62.0.

•The Bulldogs, seventh in the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.428), are hitting at a 47.2% clip in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

•Butler attempted a season-low 41 shots against Cleveland State.  The Bulldogs had a season-high five blocked shots in the win.

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in four career games against Youngstown State.  He had 48 points in last year’s two games against YSU.

•Matt Howard ranks second among active Horizon League players in career scoring (1,070 points).

•Matt Howard had a game-high eight rebounds in Butler’s victory over Cleveland State.  It was the first time he’s led the Bulldogs in rebounding since Dec. 5.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward, despite posting just eight points and four rebounds against Cleveland State, still ranks third in the Horizon League in both scoring (16.3) and rebounding (8.6).  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 (87), while Matt Howard (80) stands second.  Hayward is fourth in the league in free throw percentage (.845), while Howard is tied for sixth (.800).

•Gordon Hayward is tied for the Horizon League lead with six double-doubles this season.  He’s had two double-doubles at home this season (vs. Xavier and Milwaukee).

•Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-best 16.9 points in Butler’s six games at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He’s shooting 56.7% at home. 

•Gordon Hayward had a streak of 17 consecutive games in double-figures snapped against Cleveland State.

•Shelvin Mack has had 16 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Butler is 19-4 when Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 12-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Shelvin Mack had his first collegiate 20-point scoring performance in Butler’s victory at Youngstown State last year.  He hit four three-point field goals in the game and finished with 22 points.

•Shelvin Mack has led the Bulldogs with a 17.0 scoring average during the team’s current five-game winning streak.  Gordon Hayward (14.8) is second in scoring during winning the streak.

•Senior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in seven of Butler’s last eight games.  Veasley is averaging 12.3 points in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who had five assists and just two turnovers in 34 minutes against Cleveland State, has taken over the Horizon League lead in assist/turnover ratio (2.2).