February 5, 2010

Bulldogs Host Second Place Wright State

TOP CHALLENGE:  For the third time in four games, league-leading Butler will take on the Horizon League’s second place team when it hosts Wright State on Saturday, Feb. 6.  The game, originally scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET), in Hinkle Fieldhouse has been moved to 8 p.m., and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.  The Raiders (15-8, 8-4 Horizon League) took over sole possession of second place in the Horizon League with a 75-71 win at Valparaiso, coupled with Butler’s 63-58 victory at home over Detroit.  Wright State and Detroit began the week tied for second in the league standings.  A week ago, Butler faced Green Bay, when the Phoenix held sole possession of second place.  Butler (19-4, 12-0 HL) and Wright State both boast season-long winning steaks.  The Raiders have won four straight, while Butler has tied the fourth-longest winning steak in school history with 11 consecutive victories.  A 12th straight win could clinch a share of a fourth consecutive Horizon League regular season championship for the Bulldogs.                   

Butler’s 11-game winning streak matches the longest under Coach Brad Stevens.

HOME RULE:  The Bulldogs are 9-0 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  Butler has won 66 of its last 72 games at home, including 30 of the last 32 Horizon League contests.  The Bulldogs posted a 10-year (2000-09) record of 125-17 (.880) on their homecourt.

The Bulldogs are 38-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens. 

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler climbed to No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s road victories over Green Bay and Milwaukee, and the Bulldogs re-entered the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25” at No. 23.  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 13 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” of the two national polls each year since 2006-07.

MID-MAJOR WATCH:  Butler, riding the nation’s third-longest winning streak, has returned to the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week. The Bulldogs hold down the top spot ahead of Northern Iowa and Gonzaga.  Butler was ranked first or second in the poll for the first eight weeks of the season.

LAST TIME OUT:  The Bulldogs committed a season-high 21 turnovers, posted their lowest homecourt point total of the season and improved to 12-0 in league play for the first time in school history!  Butler used a tenacious defensive effort and clutch second-half scoring by sophomores Gordon Hayward and Ronald Nored to overcome its flurry of turnovers and post a 63-58 win over Detroit.  Hayward scored 10 of his game-high 18 points in the second half, while Nored had seven of his nine points in the final 20 minutes.  The Bulldogs, who scored the first 10 points of the game, carried a 30-26 lead at halftime and maintained the upper hand throughout the second half, thanks in part to 10 of 12 (.833) shooting from the charity stripe.  The victory was Butler’s eighth straight over Detroit                        

Butler has won 14 straight Horizon League regular season games.

FINISHING TOUCH:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward  led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fourth time in five games and recorded his league-high seventh double-double of the season in Butler’s victory over Detroit.  Hayward hit four of seven shots from the floor and 10 of 10 from the free throw line to compile a game-high 18 points, and he led all players in rebounding with 10.  The 6-9 guard has topped the Bulldogs in scoring a team-best 13 times this season, and he’s led Butler in rebounding a team-high 14 times.  He’s averaged 19.3 points over Butler’s last four outings, despite scoring just nine points in the Bulldogs’ win at Green Bay.

Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-best 15.9 points at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

ROLE CHANGE:  Point-guard Ronald Nored, who has more assists than field goals on the season, has taken on an increased scoring role in Butler’s last two games.  The 6-0 sophomore hit a career-high five of seven shots at Milwaukee and tallied a career-high 13 points in the Butler win.  It was just his second double-figures scoring performance this season!  Nored’s nine points in the victory over Detroit were his third-highest point total of the season.

Ronald Nored is shooting 66.7% (10-15) in his last four games.

DISTANCE SHORTAGE:  The Bulldogs, second in the Horizon League in three-point field goals a year ago, have hit a season-low two three-pointers in each of the past two games.  Butler hit two of 13 attempts against both Milwaukee and Detroit.  The Bulldogs were averaging 7.2 three-point field goals prior to the game at Milwaukee.
 
SMART CHOICE:  Junior Matt Howard and sophomore Gordon Hayward have been named to the five-player 2009-10 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District V University Division Men’s Basketball Team.  It’s the second straight year that Howard has made the honor squad, while Hayward made it for the first time.  Also named to the District V team were E’Twaun Moore of Purdue, Tim Abromaitis of Notre Dame and David Nurse of Western Illinois.  Each will now be considered for Academic All-America selection.  Howard was a second team Academic All-American last year. 

SCORING LIST:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His 11 points against Detroit boosted his career scoring total to 1,147 points, good for 23rd place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Chris Miskel (1992-96) in 22nd place by 23 points.

BRACKETBUSTER:  For the fourth straight year, Butler will play one of the feature games in the ESPN BracketBusters weekend series.  The Bulldogs will host Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader Siena at 11 a.m. (ET) on Saturday, Feb. 20, in a contest that will be nationally-televised on ESPN2.  Siena entered the first week of February with a 19-4 record and 13 consecutive victories, the nation’s longest active winning streak!  Butler’s previous nationally-televised BracketBusters games were against Southern Illinois (2007), Drake (2008) and Davidson (2009).

BULLDOG BITS: 

•The Bulldogs currently share the third-longest winning streak (11) in the nation with Villanova.    Siena, Butler’s BracketBusters foe, has won 13 consecutive games, while Murray State has won 12 straight.

•Butler has won its last 19 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs are 36-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers in a game.

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 16.7 points in three previous games against Wright State in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  He’s scored in double-figures in each of the three meetings.

•Matt Howard is shooting .643 (27-42) over Butler’s last six games.  He’s hit at a .565 (39-69) clip during the Bulldogs’ 11-game winning streak.

•Matt Howard stands fourth on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 415.

•Gordon Hayward leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 116, while teammate Matt Howard is second with 103.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.835), while Howard is 12th (.780).

•Gordon Hayward has shot .557 (44-79) from the field and .875 (42-48) from the free throw line in nine games in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He’s hit 13 of 30 (.433) attempts from beyond the three-point arc.  Hayward has shot .535 (53-99) from the field during the Bulldogs’ 11-game winning streak.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fourth in the Horizon League in scoring (16.2) and third in rebounding (7.9).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Shelvin Mack had a streak of 21 straight games in double-figures snapped in Butler’s victory over Detroit.  Butler is 21-4 when Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 14-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Shelvin Mack is shooting .516 (47-91) and averaging 14.4 points in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He’s averaged 15.3 points during Butler’s current winning streak.

•Shelvin Mack had seven rebounds against Detroit, one shy of his season-high set against Clemson.

•Despite a season-high six turnovers against Detroit, sophomore Ronald Nored continues to lead the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.4).  Nored had just four turnovers in Butler’s previous five games.

•Ronald Nored has more than half (42) of his 78 assists on the year in Butler’s last nine games.  He had a team-high five assists in Butler’s victory over Detroit.

•Senior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in three of his last four games against Wright State, including 12 points last month.

•Willie Veasley is shooting .560 (47-84) against conference foes this season, which is the fourth-best mark in the league.  Teammate Matt Howard is third in league games only at .566 (43-76).