January 22, 2010

Butler Wraps Up Chicago Trip At UIC

MIDWAY GAME:  Butler will close out a two-game trip to Chicago when it visits UIC on Saturday, Jan. 23, for the Horizon League Network Game of the Week.  The 2 p.m. (ET) contest at the UIC Pavilion will be televised in Indianapolis on WNDY-TV.  The Bulldogs are coming off a heart-pounding, 48-47, victory at Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 21).  That win, Butler’s seventh straight, boosted the Bulldogs to 15-4 on the season and 8-0 in league play.  It also helped the first place Bulldogs maintain at least a two-game cushion in the league standings, as the 2009 race approaches the midway point.  UIC dropped a 64-58 decision at home to Valparaiso on Thursday.  It was the fifth straight loss for the Flames and dropped UIC to 5-13 on the season and 1-7 in league action.  UIC’s one league victory came at the Pavilion over Detroit, currently one of the top three teams in the Horizon League standings.  Butler’s game at UIC will close out the first half of the league race for the Bulldogs.  Butler will begin the second round of the 2009 race with two more road games, starting with a trip to Green Bay  on Friday, Jan. 29.      

Butler’s current seven-game winning streak is the team’s longest this season.

ROAD TESTED:  Butler owns a league-best 6-1 record in true road games this season, including a 3-0 mark in Horizon League road games.  The Bulldogs have won three straight road games, since suffering their lone road setback at UAB on Dec. 22. 

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler climbed to No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s victories over Cleveland State and Youngstown State, 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 11 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” of the two national polls each year since 2006-07.

MID-MAJOR WATCH:  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 poll for eight weeks.

LAST TIME OUT:  Senior Willie Veasley hit a free throw with 0:34 left to break a 47-47 tie, and the Bulldogs survived two potential game-winning shots in the final five seconds to record a one-point win at Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 21).  Butler never trailed after taking a 14-12 lead on a three-point field goal by Zach Hahn, seven and a half minutes into the game, but the Ramblers stayed within striking distance and tied the game twice in the final seven minutes.  After Veasley gave Butler a 48-47 lead with the second of two free throws, each team committed a turnover, giving Loyola a final chance with 0:05 left.  Terrance Hill missed a three-point field goal attempt with three seconds remaining, and Jordan Hicks missed a tip-in attempt at the buzzer, ending the Ramblers’ upset bid.               

Butler improved to 8-0 in the Horizon League for the second straight year and for just the second time in school history.

FIRST DEFENSE:  Butler, which entered the game at Loyola shooting a league-best 50% from the field in conference games, struggled to find its shooting touch at Loyola.  The Bulldogs hit just 20 of 56 shots (.357) in the game, including just seven of 26 (.269) in the final 20 minutes.  But a solid effort at the defensive end helped the Bulldogs pick up their 15th win for the 16th time in the past 17 seasons.  Butler held Loyola to its second-lowest point total (47) of the season and its fourth-lowest shooting percentage (.340).  The Bulldogs forced 17 Rambler turnovers in the game and limited Loyola to just two field goals in the final eight minutes of the contest.

Butler leads the Horizon League in scoring defense (59.1) in conference games only.

STARTING STRONG:  For the third straight game, Butler sophomore Shelvin Mack turned in a strong first half performance for the Bulldogs.  The 6-3 guard hit five of eight shots and tallied 11 of his team-high 12 points in the first 20 minutes at Loyola.  In Butler’s victory over Cleveland State on Jan. 14, Mack scored 11 of his 15 points in the first period, and two days later, he tallied 22 of his team-high 24 points in the first half of Butler’s win over Youngstown State.  Mack has shot 72% (18-25) from the field in the first half of the last three games.
 
LONG AND SHORT:  Just five days after hitting a season-high 12 three-point field goals in a home victory over Youngstown State, the Bulldogs recorded a season-low three long-range baskets at Loyola.  Butler hit just three of 20 three-point field goal attempts against the Ramblers for a season-low .150 three-point field goal percentage.  The last time Butler hit fewer three-pointers in a game was in January of 2009, when the Bulldogs managed just two three-point field goals in a victory at home over Detroit.  Prior to the Loyola game, Butler was leading the Horizon League in three-point field goals in conference games only with a 7.4 average.

Butler is fourth in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (135).

CENTURY CLUB:  The Bulldogs’ win at Loyola on Thursday vaulted seniors Willie Veasley and Nick Rodgers into an elite group of Butler basketball players.  The two fourth-year players now have compiled 100 career wins during their time at Butler.  Only four other players in Butler history (Joel Cornette, Darnell Archey, Lewis Curry and Mike Moore, all 2000-03) have 100 career wins!  Butler juniors Matt Howard, Zach Hahn, Shawn Vanzant, Grant Leiendecker and Alex Anglin each have 71 career victories.

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 six points at Loyola boosted his career scoring total to 1,098 points, good for 28th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Joel Cornette (2002-06) in 27th place on the all-time list by two points and Dave Sanders in 26th place by five points.

Matt Howard ranks second among active Horizon League players in career points.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler ranks first or second in Horizon League only games in 12 different statistical categories.  The Bulldogs lead the conference games only statistics in scoring offense (72.5), scoring defense (59.1), scoring margin (+13.4), rebounding defense (26.4), turnover margin (+3.5), assist/turnover ratio (1.2), and offensive rebounding percentage (.356).

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged just 4.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in two previous games in the UIC Pavilion.  In five total career games against the Flames, he’s averaged 11.0 points and 5.0 rebounds.

•Matt Howard has moved into fifth place on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 402.  He’s three shy of Billy Shepherd, 1969-72, in the No. 4 spot.

•Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward lead the Horizon League in free throws made with 90 apiece.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.826), while Howard is ninth (.789).  Howard did not shoot a free throw at Loyola, while Hayward only had two charity attempts.

•Gordon Hayward had a streak of 17 consecutive games in double-figures snapped last week against Cleveland State.  He’s scored in double-figures in 17 of 19 games this season.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fourth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.6) and third in rebounding (8.2).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-best 15.0 points in Butler’s seven road games this season.  He’s averaged 8.6 rebounds on the road for the Bulldogs. 

•Shelvin Mack has had 18 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Butler is 20-4 when Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 14-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Shelvin Mack has led the Bulldogs with an 17.3 scoring average during the team’s current seven-game winning streak.  Mack is shooting .523 from the field and .400 from the three-point arc during the winning streak.

•Senior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in eight of Butler’s last 10 games.  Veasley has averaged 10.0 points during the team’s current seven-game wining streak.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored had a team-high four assists and no turnovers against Loyola on Thursday.  Nored leads the Horizon League lead in assist/turnover ratio (2.6).

•Ronald Nored has half of his 62 assists on the year in Butler’s last seven games.  Nored currently ranks eighth in the Horizon League in assists (3.3).

•Junior Zach Hahn has come off the bench and hit at least one three-point field goal in each of Butler’s last nine games.  Hahn is fifth in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.480) in league games only.

•Just four Butler players scored in the Bulldogs’ game at UIC last year - Gordon Hayward (25), Shelvin Mack (18), Willie Veasley (10) and Matt Howard (6).