Butler Ends Road Stretch At Ball State

STATE GAMES:  Butler will close out a stretch of six consecutive games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse when it visits Ball State on Wednesday, Dec. 2,  The game at Worthen Arena on the Ball State campus will start at 7 p.m. (ET) and will be televised on WTTV 4.  The Bulldogs are returning to the court just two days after returning from a six-day trip to California, where they played three games in the eight-team 76 Classic in Anaheim.  Butler (4-2) defeated UCLA in the tournament, while dropping games to #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson.  The California tournament followed Butler road games at Northwestern and Evansville.  The Bulldogs have played just one home game this season.  Ball State (2-2) is the first of two Indiana teams on Butler’s schedule this week.  Following Wednesday’s game in Muncie, the Bulldogs will begin Horizon League play at home against Valparaiso.                                 

The Bulldogs have won 13 consecutive games against teams from Indiana.

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs continue to be ranked in the “Top 25” in both the Associated Press (A. P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, released on Monday (Nov. 30).  Butler dropped from No. 10 to No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and from No. 12 to No. 23 in the A. P. poll.  The Bulldogs were ranked in the “Top 10” for the second consecutive season.  Butler was nationally-ranked for 12 consecutive weeks last season, and the Bulldogs have been nationally-ranked each year since 2006-07.

MORE POLLS:  Butler slipped to No. 2 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, following last weekend’s losses.  The Bulldogs, who held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for three weeks, trail Gonzaga in this week’s rankings.  Portland, runner-up at the 76 Classic, moved into the No. 3 spot in the Mid-Major Poll.

ROAD WORK:  The Bulldogs are 2-0 this season in true road games, with victories at Northwestern and at Evansville.  A year ago, Butler posted an 11-3 record on their opponent’s homecourt, which ranked among the top teams in the nation.  The Bulldogs are 24-5 on their opponent’s homecourt under head coach Brad Stevens.

Butler has won five straight road games in Indiana, dating back to 2006-07.

LAST TIME OUT:  Guard Demontez Stitt hit two free throws with 0:03 left in the game to lift #19 Clemson to a 70-69 victory over Butler in the consolation finals of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.  The two charity tosses capped a comeback that saw the Tigers erase an 11-point deficit in the second half.  Butler, looking for its first win over a nationally-ranked team since last year’s December upset of #14 Xavier, jumped to an early lead against Clemson and stretched the margin to as many as 12 points, 33-21, late in the first half.  The lead remained at double-digits early in the second half, until Clemson unleashed a 9-0 scoring run to close to within a point at 44-43.  Butler had its last lead at 69-68 on a basket by Matt Howard with 0:52 remaining.  The one-point loss left the Bulldogs in sixth place in the eight-team tournament.

ALL-TOURNAMENT:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward recorded his second double-double of the 76 Classic with team-highs of 18 points and 12 rebounds against Clemson.  The 6-9 forward, who finished second in the tournament in rebounding with a 10.0 average, was named to the five-player All-Tournament Team, along with Da’Sean Butler of West Virginia, Kevin Jones of West Virginia, T. J. Robinson of Long Beach State and T. J. Campbell of Portland.  Da’Sean Butler was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Gordon Hayward averaged a double-double (14.0 pts., 10.0 reb) at the 76 Classic.

SCORING LEADER:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack led the Bulldogs in scoring in California with 56 points (18.7 ppg) in Butler’s three games.  He had back-to-back, 20-point scoring performances for just the second time in his Butler career with 20 points against Minnesota and 21 points against UCLA.  The 6-3 guard finished the tournament with 15 points against Clemson.  Mack hit 18 of 37 shots (.486), including eight of 20 (.400) from beyond the three-point arc, and 12 of 14 (.857) from the free throw line in the three games.  He tied with West Virginia’s Da’Sean Butler for second in the tournament in scoring, four points behind scoring leader T. J. Robinson of Long Beach State.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Senior Willie Veasley was asked to show the full range of his defensive skills in Butler’s game against Clemson.  The 6-3 forward was given the task of guarding Clemson’s 6-7, 240-pound Trevor Booker to start the game, and he helped limit the Naismith Award candidate to 12 points.  Later in the game, when 6-2 guard Demontez Stitt started to heat up, Veasley was shifted to guard him.  Veasley also guarded Minnesota scoring leader Damian Johnson, a 6-7 forward, and 6-4 UCLA guard Malcolm Lee in the tournament.

WARMING TREND:  The Bulldogs, who failed to reach 40% in field goal shooting in their previous three games, shot a season-best .538 from the field against Clemson.  Butler connected on 13 of 24 (.542) shots in the first half against the Tigers, and then added 15 of 28 (.536) in the second half.  The 54% shooting for the game was Butler’s best effort since last year’s regular season finale against Cleveland State, when the Bulldogs shot .561 in 58-56 victory. 

CHARITY SHORTAGE:  After converting 60 free throws in the first two games of the 76 Classic, including a tournament record 36 against Minnesota, the Bulldogs went to the line just 10 times against Clemson and made just six.  Butler had hit 91 of 122 (.746) free throws in the three games prior to the Clemson contest.

Butler has made more free throws (125) than its opponents have shot (111).

GRAND OPPORTUNITY:  Junior Matt Howard is closing in on becoming the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points.  He enters the Ball State contest with 962 points in 72 career games.  The last Butler player to score 1,000 career points was Howard’s former teammate A. J. Graves, who turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

LINEUP CHANGE:  Sophomore Ronald Nored was inserted into Butler’s starting lineup against UCLA in place of Shawn Vanzant, who had started Butler’s first four games.  Nored, who started all 32 Butler games a year ago, finished with six points, two rebounds and two assists against the Bruins.  Nored also started against Clemson and finished with six points, two rebounds and four assists.  Vanzant came off the bench in both games.  Butler used the same starting lineup in all 32 games last season.
 
BULLDOG BITS: 

•Junior Matt Howard connected on 10 of the 16 (.625) shots he attempted in the 76 Classic in California to break out of a minor shooting slump.  The 6-8 forward entered the tournament shooting just .333 (7-21) over Butler’s first three games this season.

•Matt Howard scored a season-high 23 points in Butler’s game against #16 Minnesota at the 76 Classic.  It was his first 20-point scoring performance since last year’s NCAA Tournament game against LSU.

•Matt Howard has averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two previous meetings with Ball State.  He’s shot .688 (11-16) from the field in the two meetings.  Howard was the lone Butler player to score in double-figures against the Cardinals last year.
 
•Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 18 points against Clemson.  He also had a season-high 12 rebounds and a season-high two blocked shots in the game.  His rebounding total was one shy of his career-high, set against Valparaiso last year.

•Gordon Hayward is the lone Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had seven consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Gordon Hayward currently ranks third in the Horizon League in rebounding (9.0).  The 6-9 sophomore has led Butler in rebounding in five of the team’s first six games this season.

•Gordon Hayward tripled his season total from three-point range at the 76 Classic.  The Butler forward, who led the Bulldogs in three-pointers a year ago, hit six long-range shots in the three games.  He had hit just two three-pointers in Butler’s first three games.

•Guard Shelvin Mack hit eight of 20 (.400) three-point field goal attempts in three games at the 76 Classic.  Mack had hit just five of 13 three-point attempts in Butler’s three games prior to the Anaheim tournament.

•Shelvin Mack had eight rebounds in Butler’s game against Clemson, one off of his career-high set against Cleveland State last year.  Mack averaged 6.3 rebounds in the three games in California.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 17.6 points in Butler’s last five games, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has score at least 15 points in each of his last five contests.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who was inserted into Butler’s starting lineup for the final two games of the 76 Classic, finished the California tournament with seven assists and just two turnovers.  The Butler guard leads the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.3).

•Ronald Nored led the Bulldogs with five steals in three games in California, while teammate Willie Veasley had four.  The two lead Butler on the season with 10 steals apiece.

•Senior Avery Jukes and junior Zach Hahn combined to score 30 of Butler’s 38 bench points at the 76 Classic.