February 10, 2010

Butler Begins Two-Game Road Trip At Youngstown State

STRETCH RUN:  Butler will play three of its final four Horizon League regular season games on the road, beginning with a visit to Youngstown State (8-15, 2-11 Horizon League) on Thursday, Feb. 11.  The first of back-to-back games in Ohio is scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) at the Beeghly Center on the Youngstown State campus.  The nationally-ranked Bulldogs (21-4, 14-0 HL) head into their closing stretch of games needing just one victory to claim outright possession of the Horizon League regular season championship.  Butler earned a share of its fourth consecutive league title with a 62-47 victory over Loyola at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday (Feb. 8).  That win was Butler’s 13th straight, tying Murray State for the second-longest active winning streak in the nation.  Siena, the Bulldogs’ BracketBusters opponent, owns the nation’s longest current streak with 15 consecutive wins.  Following the Youngstown State game, the Bulldogs will wrap-up their Ohio trip at second place Cleveland State on Saturday (Feb. 13).                     

The Bulldogs’ 13-game win streak ties the second-longest in Butler history.

ROAD TESTED:  The Bulldogs own a league-best 9-1 record in road games this season.  Butler has won six straight road contests, since suffering their lone road setback of the season at UAB on Dec. 22.  The Bulldogs are 31-6 in road games under head coach Brad Stevens.

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler climbed to No. 18 in the Associated Press (A. P.) national poll and remained at No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today “Top 25,” following wins over Detroit and Wright State last week.  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 14 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

TOP 20:  Butler has recorded a 20-win season for the fifth consecutive year and for the 12th time in the past 14 years.  The Bulldogs are the only team in Horizon League history to record five consecutive 20-win seasons and they’ve done it twice!  Butler holds the league record with seven straight 20-win seasons, 1996-2003.


LAST TIME OUT:  Butler shrugged off a slow start and pulled away with a strong effort in the second half to hand visiting Loyola a 62-47 setback.  The Bulldogs hit just two of their first 18 shots in the contest and found themselves trailing by as many as nine points, before a late run cut Loyola’s margin to two, 26-24, at halftime.  Butler’s shooting touch improved in the second half, and the Bulldogs opened the final period with a 19-7 run to take control of the game.  The home team hit 14 of 28 shots in the final period, while limiting the Ramblers to eight of 23 (.348) shooting.  Loyola never got closer than 10 points in the final nine minutes, and Butler stretched the margin to as many as 18 points late in the contest.  The victory was Butler’s 11th straight in Hinkle Fieldhouse.                              

Butler has won 16 straight Horizon League regular season games.

LEAD ROLE:  Junior Matt Howard  reprised the role he filled a year ago, when he earned Horizon League Player of the Year honors, to help the Bulldogs overtake upset-minded Loyola.  The 6-8 forward hit four of eight shots from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line and scored a game-high 20 points in 27 minutes of action.  He tallied 11 points in the first half to help the Bulldogs stay close and then added nine more as Butler pulled away in the final period.  It was the fifth straight game that Howard shot 50% or better from the field, and it was the second time in five games that he topped the Bulldogs in scoring.

Matt Howard is shooting 56.2% against Horizon League foes this season.

STRONG FINISH:  Senior Willie Veasley scored 10 of his 12 points against Loyola in the second half.  The 6-3 forward hit all four shots that he attempted in the final period, including two from the three-point arc.  He finished the game hitting five of seven field goal attempts, just 48 hours after he nailed a career-best nine of nine shots against Wright State!  Veasley is shooting .667 (52-78) from the field in Butler’s 11 games since Jan. 8.

Willie Veasley leads the Horizon League in field goal pct. (.610) in league games only.

FEELING CHARITABLE:  The Bulldogs, hit 16 of 18 (.889) free throws against Loyola, including 11 of 12 (.917) in the first half.  It was the second consecutive game that Butler shot 88.9% from the charity stripe and the third straight game that the Bulldogs topped 80% at the line.  Over the past three games, Butler is hitting at a .860 (49-57) clip from the free throw line.  The Bulldogs are 18-1 this season when hitting more free throws than their opponent.

Butler leads the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.749).
 
QUICK START:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens passed his former boss, Thad Matta, on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Starts By Wins, 3 Seasons.  Stevens picked up his 77th career win with Butler’s victory over Loyola, giving him one more victory than Matta had in his first three seasons at Butler and Xavier.  The Bulldogs’ coach stands sixth on the NCAA list, one shy of Chris Lowery of Southern Illinois in fifth place.  Mark Fox (Nevada) and Mark Few (Gonzaga) share the top spot with 81 wins apiece in three seasons.  Stevens also stands sixth in Division I in winning percentage (.846) for three seasons.

Brad Stevens reached 75 wins faster than any coach in Butler history.   

SHORT LIST:  Brad Stevens is the first basketball coach in Butler history to record a 20-win campaign in each of his first three seasons at the helm.  He’s the only Butler coach to have a 30-win season.

GRAND EFFORT:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His 20 points against Loyola boosted his career scoring total to 1,179 points, good for 22nd place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Tim McRoberts (1980-84) in 21st place by 29 points.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•The Bulldogs are just the third team in Horizon League history to boast a 14-0 record.  Green Bay was 16-0 in 1995-96 and Xavier was 14-0 in 1994-95.

•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 20.4 and 7.2 rebounds points in five previous games against Youngstown State.  He’s had four 20-point scoring performances against the Penguins.

•Matt Howard is shooting .618 (34-55) over Butler’s last eight games.  He’s hit at a .561 (46-82) clip during the Bulldogs’ 13-game winning streak.

•Matt Howard stands fourth on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 433.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 121, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 119.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.838), while Howard is ninth (.791).

•Gordon Hayward needs eight points to become the 11th Butler sophomore all-time to score 400 points.

•Gordon Hayward has averaged 16.4 points on the road this season.  He scored 25 points each in two of Butler’s last three road contests.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fourth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.7) and  rebounding (7.8).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Gordon Hayward, hampered by an upper respiratory infection, scored a season-low seven points against Youngstown State last month.

•Shelvin Mack had his first collegiate 20-point scoring performance in the Beeghly Center last year, when he tallied 22 points against the Penguins.  His last 20-point scoring performance was against Youngstown State last month (24). 

•Butler is 21-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 14-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Senior Willie Veasley has led the Bulldogs in rebounding in three of the last five games.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who had seven assists and just one turnover against Youngstown State last month, continues to lead the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.1).

•Junior Zach Hahn, who hit two of three three-point field goal attempts against Loyola, ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.500) in league games only.

•The Bulldogs hit a season-high 12 three-point field goals against Youngstown State last month.  Shelvin Mack led the way with five, while Zach Hahn added four.