Butler Hosts #13/15 Ohio State, Former Coach

HOMECOMING GAME:  Butler, having played seven of its last eight games outside of Indianapolis, returns home to host #13/15 Ohio State on Saturday, Dec. 12.  The game will start at 12 noon at Hinkle Fieldhouse and will be nationally-televised on ESPN.  The Buckeyes (7-1) are the first “Top 25” team to visit Hinkle Fieldhouse since February of 2008, when #16/18 Drake played Butler in a BracketBusters game.  Ohio State is the highest-ranked team to visit Butler since 1993, when #11 Indiana came to Indianapolis to play the Bulldogs.  The game also will be a homecoming for Ohio State head coach Thad Matta, Ohio State assistant coach Brandon Miller and Buckeyes’ video coordinator Kevin Kuwik.  Matta (‘90) played at Butler, 1988-90, served as an assistant coach for the Bulldogs, 1992-94, and was Butler’s head coach in 2000-01.  Miller (‘03) was a 1,000-point scorer for the Bulldogs, 2001-03, and he served as an assistant coach at Butler, 2007-08.  Kuwik was Butler’s coordinator of basketball operations last season.  In his one season as head coach at Butler, Matta hired current Butler head coach Brad Stevens as the Bulldogs’ coordinator of basketball operations.  The Buckeyes will be Butler’s second consecutive “Top 25” foe this week.  The Bulldogs opened the week in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York, dropping a 72-65 decision to #15/13 Georgetown on Tuesday (Dec. 8).                                   

The Bulldogs are 10-2 under head coach Brad Stevens in games following a loss.

TOP COMPETITION:  Ohio State is the fourth “Top 25” foe on Butler’s early schedule.  The Bulldogs played #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson in a four-day period at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., last month, and #15/13 Georgetown on Tuesday (Dec. 8) at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.

POLL NUMBERS:  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 (Dec. 7).  Butler sits at No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 22 in the A. P. poll.  Two weeks ago, 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 POLLING:  Butler is back on top of the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll this week.  The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for the first three weeks of the season, before falling to second for the last two weeks.

RANKINGS RECORD:  Butler is 9-14 in its last 23 games against “Top 25” teams, but only one of those wins (Maryland in 2007) came when the Bulldogs also were ranked.

BUTLER AND THE BIG TEN:  Ohio State is the third of three Big Ten teams on Butler’s 2009-10 schedule.  The Bulldogs defeated Northwestern, 67-54, in Evanston, Ill., on Nov. 21, but fell to then #22/16-ranked Minnesota, 82-73, on Thanksgiving Day at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.

Butler has a 6-2 record in its last eight games against teams from the Big Ten.

HOME WORK:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first two home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 21 of its last 23 home games and 59 of its last 65 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The Bulldogs are 127-17 (.882) on their homecourt since 1999-2000.

Butler is 31-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

LAST TIME OUT:  Center Greg Monroe posted career-highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds to power #15/13 Georgetown to a 72-65 victory over the Bulldogs in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (Dec. 8).  Monroe’s first field goal just over seven minutes into the game gave the Hoyas a 12-11 lead and sparked a 10-0 run that put Georgetown in front for good.  Despite shooting just 27% in the second half, Butler trimmed a 17-point Georgetown second half lead to five, 67-62, with under a minute to play.  But the Hoyas held on by hitting five of six free throws in the final 50 seconds.

Butler’s last four losses have come to teams ranked in the “Top 25.”

BIG STAGE:  Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward, playing in Madison Square Garden for the first time in his young career, led the Bulldogs with a season-high 24 points and eight rebounds against the Hoyas.  Hayward connected on a season-high four three-point field goals in the game, and he was perfect on six free throw attempts.  The 6-9 guard added two assists, two blocked shots and a steal, while matching his career-high with 39 minutes played.  Hayward scored 19 points in the second half.
 
CHARITABLE SEASON:  The Bulldogs have continued to surge at the free throw line in recent games.  Over the past six contests, Butler is shooting .776 (128-165) from the charity stripe.  The Bulldogs hit 19 of 22 (.864) free throw attempts against Georgetown.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward has been perfect from the charity stripe in the last three games, making his last 19 attempts, while junior Matt Howard has connected on 21 of 26 (.808) free throws over the same stretch.

Butler has made more free throws (187) than its opponents have shot (169).

GRAND FINISH:  Junior Matt Howard needs just two points to become the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points.  He enters the Ohio State contest with 998 points in 75 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.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 17.0 points and 8.5 rebounds in two previous meetings with Ohio State.  The 6-8 Butler forward had 23 points and seven rebounds in Butler’s victory over the Buckeyes as a freshman, and then he posted a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds at Ohio State last year.

•Matt Howard has averaged 15.1 points in 34 career games in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  He’s averaged 18.8 points in his last eight games at the Fieldhouse.  His career-high in the Fieldhouse is 30 points against Loyola last year.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 54, three ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward.  Howard, who ranks seventh in the league in free throw shooting (.818), hit seven of eight from the charity stripe against Georgetown.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward became the third Butler player this season to record a 20-point scoring night with his effort against Georgetown.  Teammate Shelvin Mack has two 20-point scoring efforts, while Matt Howard has one.

•Gordon Hayward is the lone Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 10 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs in rebounding for the seventh time in nine games with his eight rebounds against Georgetown.

•Gordon Hayward currently ranks second in the Horizon League in rebounding (8.2).  He’s third in the league in free throw shooting (.864), fourth in the circuit in scoring (16.1) and fifth in blocked shots (0.9).

•Gordon Hayward is tied for the Horizon League lead with three double-doubles this season.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 15.8 points in Butler’s last eight games, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in six of the last eight contests.

•Shelvin Mack, who had seven assists against Ohio State a year ago, is tied for fifth in the Horizon League in assists (3.3).  Mack also is fifth in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.3).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored has recorded 10 assists and six turnovers since returning to Butler’s starting lineup against UCLA on Nov. 27.  His 1.8 assist/turnover ratio on the season would rank third in the Horizon League, but he’s five assists shy of qualifying for league statistical rankings.

•Junior Zach Hahn came off the bench with 11 points against Georgetown, his second game in double-figures this year. 

•Senior Willie Veasley has had a season-high 15 points in each of Butler’s first two games in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  His career-high is 16 points, set last year.

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall suffered a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State, and he hasn’t played since.  He’s doubtful for the Ohio State game.