February 24, 2010

Bulldogs Close Regular Season At Valparaiso

ROAD CLOSING:  Butler, having already clinched the Horizon League regular season championship and the No. 1 seed in the league tournament, can add to its resume when it visits Valparaiso on Friday, Feb. 26, to close out the regular season.  The game at Valparaiso’s Athletics-Recreation Center will start at 9 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on ESPNU.  The Bulldogs (25-4) are bidding to become only the fourth team in Horizon League history to complete an unbeaten league season and the first to record an 18-0 mark.  Green Bay posted a 16-0 record in 1995-96, Xavier was 14-0 in 1994-95 and Loyola was 5-0 in the league’s first season, 1979-80.  This year’s Butler squad already owns the record for most league wins (17) in a season.  The Bulldogs also are looking to extend a school-record, 17-game winning streak, which is currently tied with Murray State for the longest in the nation, and seeking to reach 26 victories for the sixth time in nine seasons.  The game at Valparaiso (15-15, 10-7 HL) will be Butler’s final test until the league tournament semifinals on March 6 at Hinkle Fieldhouse.                           

The Bulldogs have won 19 straight Horizon League regular season games.

TRAVEL TESTED:  The Bulldogs are tied for second in the nation in road wins with a league-best 11-1 record, one win shy of national leader Vermont.  Butler has won eight consecutive road games since dropping it’s lone road contest at UAB on Dec. 22. 

NATIONAL LOOK:  Butler climbed to No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll and to No. 15 in the  Associated Press (A. P.) “Top 25,” following wins over UIC and Siena 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 15 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

20 SOMETHING:  The Bulldogs, owning a 20-win season for the fifth consecutive year and for the 12th time in the past 14 years, have the sixth-highest single season win total in school history with 25 victories.  The Bulldogs are the only team in Horizon League history to record five or more consecutive 20-win seasons and they’ve done it twice (1997-2003, 2006-2010)!

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward combined for 38 points to lead the Bulldogs to a 70-53 victory over Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leader Siena in a much-anticipated BracketBusters match-up at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Butler trailed by three points, 31-28, at halftime, but out-scored the visitors, 42-22, in the final 20 minutes to claim the nationally-televised victory!  Mack sparked the second half comeback with 15 of his game-high 23 points, while Hayward added seven of his 15 points in the final period.  Hayward broke a 34-34 tie and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with a free throw at 15:45.  The Bulldogs shot a crisp 61% (14-23) after intermission, including four of seven (57%) from beyond the three-point arc.                                   

Butler was unbeaten at home during the regular season for the first time since 2002-03.

SENIOR DAY:  Senior Willie Veasley did not play against Siena on “Senior Day”, because of a sprained left knee.  His absence from the lineup ended a streak of 60 consecutive starts and 91 consecutive games played.  The 6-3 forward is expected to play this week.  Seniors Avery Jukes and Nick Rodgers both were given their first collegiate start in the game, and Jukes scored Butler’s first points off an assist from Rodgers.

Willie Veasley and Nick Rodgers, both four-year players, have helped Butler to a school-record 110 victories.

TOP DOG:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack posted his first 20-point scoring performance since Jan. 16 with a team-high 23 points against Siena.  Mack had just one double-figures scoring performance in Butler’s previous three games, and that was 11 points at Cleveland State.  His 23 points against Siena were the third-most of his Butler career!  He added six rebounds and a steal against the Saints.

Shelvin Mack has 10 career 20-point scoring performances.

DOUBLE TIME:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds against Siena.  It was his fourth consecutive double-double for the Bulldogs and the 14th of his young Butler career.  The four straight double-doubles are the most by a Butler player in more than a quarter of century!

Gordon Hayward leads the Horizon League with 11 double-doubles.

CHARITY FIRST:  The Bulldogs have shot 75.4% (285-378) from the free throw line during their current 17-game winning streak.  That effort has helped Butler take over the top spot in the Horizon League in team free throw shooting (.751).  The Bulldogs, who currently rank 11th in the NCAA Division I in free throw shooting, have topped 80% from the line in five of the past seven games.

SMART CHOICE:  For the second time in three years, Butler has two men’s basketball players on the Academic All-America team.  Junior Matt Howard, a finance major with a 3.77 grade point average, was named first team on the 2009-10 ESPN The Magazine University Division Academic All-America squad, while sophomore Gordon Hayward, a computer engineering major with a 3.31 GPA, was picked third team.  Howard was a second team Academic All-American a last season, and two years ago, Butler was represented on the honor squad by A. J. Graves (second team) and Drew Streicher (third team).   

GRAND EFFORT:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points earlier this season.  His eight points against Siena boosted his career scoring total to 1,236 points, good for 20th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Gerry Williams (1960-63) in 19th place by seven points.

QUICK START:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens has moved into a tie for first place on the NCAA Division I list for Best Career Starts By Wins, 3 Seasons.  Stevens picked up his 81st career win against Siena, matching the three-season record of Mark Fox (Nevada) and Mark Few (Gonzaga).

Brad Stevens already stands sixth on Butler’s all-time list for coaching wins.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for the fourth consecutive week.  Butler was ranked first or second in the poll for the first eight weeks of the season.

•Butler is the only school in the Horizon League to have won four consecutive regular season championships, and the Bulldogs have done it twice (2000-03, 2007-10).

•Junior Matt Howard is shooting .526 from the field during the month of February.

•Matt Howard stands fourth on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 453.  He’s nine free throws shy of third place.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 141, while teammate Gordon Hayward is second with 136.  Hayward is fifth in the league in free throw percentage (.840), while Howard is ninth (.801).

•Gordon Hayward became the 11th Butler sophomore all-time to score 400 points earlier this season.  He’s fourth on the Butler sophomores’ list with 459 points.

•Gordon Hayward has averaged a team-best 15.1 points during the squad’s current 17-game winning streak.  He scored 20 or more points four times during the streak.

•Gordon Hayward ranks fourth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.8) and third in  rebounding (8.5).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Gordon Hayward has hit 30 of 33 (.909) free throws in Butler’s last seven games.

•Gordon Hayward has averaged 17.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in three career meetings with Valparaiso.

•Gordon Hayward has shot 51% and averaged 17.1 points and 8.7 rebounds on the road this season.

•Shelvin Mack became the 12th Butler sophomore to score 400 points with his effort against Siena.  He enters this week with 402 points this season. 

•Butler is 22-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 15-1 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Junior Zach Hahn, who hit two key three-point field goals in the second half against Siena, has shot .473 from the three-point line during Butler’s current winning streak.  He’s second in the league in conference games only in three-point field goal pct. (.472).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who had six assists and two turnovers against Siena, continues to lead the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.0).  Nored has had 73 assists and 36 turnovers during Butler’s win streak.

•Butler has won its last 20 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs are 37-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers in a game.

•The Bulldogs rank ninth in the NCAA Division I in won-lost percentage (.862).  Butler is tied for sixth in the nation in total wins (25).