Bulldogs Visit Big Ten’s Northwestern

ROAD WORK:  Butler will meet the first of three Big Ten teams on its pre-Christmas schedule when travels to Evanston, Ill., to take on Northwestern on Wednesday, Nov. 18.  The non-league game is slated for 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis) at Northwestern’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.  The trip to Northwestern will be the first of six consecutive contests away from Hinkle Fieldhouse for the Bulldogs.  Butler will visit Evansville on Nov. 21 and then head to California for three games in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, beginning on Thanksgiving.  The stretch away from Indianapolis will conclude with a game at Ball State on Dec. 2.  Butler and Northwestern are meeting for the second consecutive season.  The Bulldogs rallied in the second half last year’s game to claim a 57-53 decision over the Big Ten squad.  It was the first meeting between the two schools since 1986, when Butler posted a 71-53 victory over the Wildcats.  Butler’s last visit to Welsh-Ryan Arena was in December of 1984.  The Bulldogs have upcoming games against Big Ten squads Minnesota (Nov. 26 in Anaheim) and Ohio State (Dec. 12 at Hinkle Fieldhouse).                

Butler has won five of its last six games against Big Ten opponents.
     
SUCCESSFUL START:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored a game-high 17 points and senior Willie Veasley added 15 to lead Butler to a 73-62 victory over visiting Davidson in the season-opener for both teams on Saturday (Nov. 14).  The Bulldogs, who posted their fourth consecutive season-opening victory, had to rally from a 10-point deficit on two occasions in the first half and didn’t seal the decision until mounting a 17-4 scoring run in the final 10 minutes of the game.  Hayward scored nine of Butler’s final 17 points.

Butler improved to 30-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse under Coach Brad Stevens. 

CHARITY WORK:  The Bulldogs hit 11 of 13 (.846) free throw attempts in the second half of their win over Davidson.  That followed a nine of 12 (.750) shooting performance from the line in the first half.  Butler scored eight of its final 13 points from the charity stripe to secure the season-opening victory.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward paced the Bulldogs by hitting all seven of the free throws he attempted. 

POINT PRODUCTION:  After starting the same lineup in all 32 games last year, head coach Brad Stevens unveiled a new lineup in Butler’s two exhibition games and the Bulldogs’ season-opener.  Junior Shawn Vanzant replaced former starting point-guard Ronald Nored, who was hampered by a stress fracture in his left leg during the summer and early fall.  Both players performed well in the victory over Davidson.  Vanzant nailed a career-high three three-point field goals and finished with 10 points in 30 minutes.  Nored came off the bench with eight points and team-highs of five assists and three steals in 28 minutes.

SENIOR MOMENT:  The 2009-10 Bulldogs have something last year’s 26-6 team didn’t have -- seniors.  And two of Butler’s three seniors turned in key performances against Davidson.  With the Bulldogs trailing, 33-23, in the first half, Willie Veasley sparked a 12-0 Butler scoring run with back-to-back three-point field goals, the second giving the Bulldogs a 35-33 advantage.  Avery Jukes scored all six of his points in the second half, including a three-point field goal with 5:36 remaining to give Butler an eight-point lead, 66-58.  Veasley finished with 15 points, one shy of his career-high.

DEEP THOUGHTS:  Five different Butler players combined to hit nine three-point field goals against Davidson.  Senior Willie Veasley and junior Shawn Vanzant led the way with three three-pointers each, while Avery Jukes, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored each added one.  Howard’s three-pointer was just the third of his Butler career.  Gordon Hayward, Butler’s top three-point field goal shooter a year ago, did not attempt a three-point field goal for the first time in his collegiate career.

Butler was 14-0 in 2008-09 when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.        

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs maintained their position in the “Top 25” in both the Associated Press (A. P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, released on Monday (Nov. 16).  Butler remained at No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and at No. 11 in the A. P. poll.  The Bulldogs were ranked in both preseason polls for the first time in school history!  Butler was ranked in the “Top 25” for 12 consecutive weeks last season, and the Bulldogs have achieved a national ranking each year since 2006-07.

AUTUMN SUCCESS:  The Bulldogs have won 21 consecutive November games, dating back to 2005.  Butler’s last November loss came at Big Ten foe Michigan, 78-74, on Nov. 26, 2005.

TOP NOD:  Butler continues to hold the No. 1 spot in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll.  The Bulldog, who received the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com preseason poll on Nov. 2, received 28 first place votes in this week’s poll to finish ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 3 Siena.

USA REUNION:  Butler sophomores Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack will face former Team USA teammate John Shurna when Butler squares off against Northwestern.  The three helped the USA capture a gold medal with an unbeaten record at the FIBA Under-19 World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand, last summer.  It was the first title for the U.S. in the U19 World Championship since 1991!  Hayward and Shurna roomed together in New Zealand. 

QUICK STARTS:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens earned his 50th career coaching win in his 56th game.  Only two coaches in major college history reached 50 wins faster.  Doc Meanwell was 50-1 at Wisconsin (1911-15) and current Northwestern coach Bill Carmody won 50 of his first 55 games at Princeton (1996-98).  Buck Freeman of St. John’s also won his 50th game in his 56th career outing.

ALL-AMERICA:  Butler was the lone school to have two players named preseason first team Mid-Major All-America by CollegeHoops.net.  Junior Matt Howard and sophomore Gordon Hayward were joined on the first team by Matt Bouldin of Gonzaga, Ryan Wittman of Cornell and Marqus Blakely of Vermont.  Hayward was selected as the CollegeHoops.net Preseason Mid-Major Player of the Year.  Howard also was named to the Mid-Major All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com.  Both Butler players were first team All-Horizon League picks last year.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler trailed Northwestern by nine points, 36-27, of last year’s game at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  But the Bulldogs battled back by holding Northwestern to just 17 points in the second half.

•The Bulldogs shot just 20% from the three-point arc and made just four three-pointers in last year’s game against Northwestern.  Butler averaged better than eight three-pointers per game for the season.

•Matt Howard stands fifth on Butler’s all-time list for field goal shooting (.565).  Howard hit five of nine shots against Northwestern last year.

•Matt Howard had his 50th career double-figures scoring performance in Butler’s victory over Davidson.

•Butler’s five starters scored 53 of the Bulldogs’ 57 points against Northwestern last year.  Avery Jukes (3 points) and Shawn Vanzant (1 point) had Butler’s four bench points against the Wildcats.

•Senior Willie Veasley matched his career-high with seven three-point field goal attempts against Davidson.  His three three-pointers were one shy of his career-high, set last year against Xavier.
•Junior Shawn Vanzant played a career-high 30 minutes against Davidson.  His previous career-high was 23 minutes in Butler’s victory at #14 Xavier last year.

•Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward were the lone Bulldogs to score in double-figures in each of the two Butler exhibition games.  Mack had team-highs of 13 points against DePauw and 12 points against Taylor, while Hayward tallied 11 points against DePauw and 10 against Taylor.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens used the first day of the fall signing period to add three players to next year’s roster.  Signing with the Bulldogs on November 11 were 6-9 Erik Fromm of Bloomington (Ind.) South High School, 6-7 Khyle Marshall of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and 6-1 Chrishawn Hopkins of Manual High School in Indianapolis.  Fromm averaged 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds as a junior, while leading his high school team to a 26-0 record and a Class 4A state championship in Indiana.  Marshall averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds a year ago, while earning All-State honors.  Hopkins averaged 17.3 points in just seven games at Manual, after transferring from Las Vegas last year.  The three new Bulldogs complete Butler’s 2010-11 recruiting class.