Bulldogs Face League Road Challenge At Milwaukee

HOLIDAY TRAVEL:  Butler, coming off a New Year’s Day victory at home, will play its first road game of 2011 when it visits Milwaukee for a stiff Horizon League test on Monday, Jan. 3.  The game at Milwaukee’s U. S. Cellular Arena is slated for a 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis) tip.  Butler (10-4, 2-0 Horizon League) opened the New Year with a 76-59 win over Valparaiso at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  It was the sixth consecutive win for the Bulldogs, who were playing for the first time since winning the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii on Christmas Day.  Milwaukee (7-8, 2-2 HL) picked up an impressive New Year’s Day road win with an 84-81 decision in overtime at Detroit, the team picked second behind the Bulldogs in the league’s preseason poll.  The Panthers had five different players combine for a league-high 16 three-point field goals in that victory.  Butler and Milwaukee will meet again later this month, when the Panthers visit Hinkle Fieldhouse for a Sunday, Jan. 23, afternoon game.   

Butler is 2-0 in Horizon League play for the third straight year.  

MILESTONE WIN:  The victory over Valparaiso was Butler’s 22nd straight Horizon League regular season win, breaking the previous league record of 21 consecutive victories that the Bulldogs shared with Green Bay.  The Phoenix won 21 straight league games between 1994 and 1997, while Butler accomplished the feat twice.  The Bulldogs won 21 in a row from Jan. 18, 2008, to Jan. 30, 2009, and then again during the current streak.

Butler’s last Horizon League regular season loss came at Milwaukee in 2009.  

CENTURY MARK:  Head coach Brad Stevens and Butler’s five current seniors are one win away from their 100th career victory.  Stevens and company are 99-19 over the past three and a half seasons.  Only two previous men’s basketball senior classes at Butler have reached 100 career victories.  The 2003 class of Joel Cornette, Darnell Archey, Lewis Curry and Mike Moore compiled 100 wins over four seasons, while Willie Veasley and Nick Rodgers finished with a school-record 118 career victories last year.

LAST TIME OUT:  Seven Butler players, led by junior Shelvin Mack, scored eight or more points and the Bulldogs used strong starts to both halves to defeat Valparaiso, 76-59.  Butler jumped in front with a 13-3 run to start the game and then built its largest lead, 44-25, with an 8-0 run to start the second half.  The Crusaders, who entered the contest with a four-game winning streak and a 2-0 Horizon League record, did chop Butler’s margin to five points at 53-48, but back-to-back three-point field goals by senior Zach Hahn put the Bulldogs back on top by double-digits.  Butler added to the final margin with an 8-0 run to close the game.  Mack led all scorers with 16 points, hitting four of eight shots from the floor, including two of five from beyond the three-point arc, and all six of his free throw attempts. The victory was Butler’s 10th straight over the Crusaders.        

PERIMETER PUNCH:  Butler picked up 47 points from its backcourt quartet of Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn to spark the home win over Valparaiso.  Mack, coming off a 20-point performance against Washington State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic, led the way for the second straight game with 16 points, while Nored had his second double-figures scoring performance of the season with 11 points.  Vanzant came off the bench with 11 points and Hahn chipped in with nine points.  The four guards combined to hit 15 of 29 (.517) shots, including 7 of 16 (.438) from three-point range.  Butler topped 70 points for the fifth time in the last six games.

Butler is leading the Horizon League in team scoring offense (74.4).       

WARMING TREND:  Junior Ronald Nored hit five of nine shots, including one of two from beyond the three-point arc, in Butler’s victory over Valparaiso.  It was the sixth time in the last seven games that the 6-0 point-guard has shot 50% or better from the field, after hitting at just a 29% clip over his first five games.  Nored is shooting .560 from the field, .500 from the three-point arc and .786 from the free throw line, while averaging 8.8 points, during Butler’s current six-game winning streak.
 
HOME DEFENSE:  The Bulldogs limited Valparaiso to just three field goals in the first ten minutes of the game, while jumping out to a 21-8 lead.  The Crusaders had 19 points with less than a minute to go in the first half, before connecting on a pair of three-point field goals in the final 0:44.  The 59 total points were the third-lowest total of the season for the Crusaders, who entered the game as the top-scoring team in the Horizon League.      

Butler has won 25 of its last 26 games when holding its opponent below 60 points.  

CHARITY FIRST:  The Bulldogs missed their first free throw attempt against Valparaiso and then finished the game by connecting on their final 19 charity tosses.  The 19 for 20 (.950) effort was Butler’s best this season and the third-best single game free throw percentage in the Horizon League this season.  It was the second time this season that the Bulldogs have shot better than 90% from the free throw line.

Butler leads the Horizon League in team free throw shooting (.754).  

SUCCESSFUL DECADE:  The Bulldogs’ victory over Washington State in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic wrapped up the most successful decade in Butler basketball history.  Over the past ten seasons, Butler compiled a 244-84 (.748) record, including eight seasons of 20 or more wins.  The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Tournament six times, made three “Sweet 16” appearances, earned one “Elite Eight” berth and became the first team in Horizon League history to reach the Final Four during the ten-year period.  Butler captured seven Horizon League regular season championships and three league tournament titles during the decade, and the Bulldogs advanced to post-season tournament play in eight of the ten seasons.

BULLDOG BITS:

•The Bulldogs, who committed 11 turnovers in their victory over Valparaiso, lead the Horizon League in fewest turnovers per game (10.9).  Butler also leads the league in assist/turnover radio (1.2).

•Senior Matt Howard has scored in 118 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.

•Matt Howard had a streak of 12 straight games in double-figures snapped with his eight points against Valparaiso.

•Matt Howard is averaging 19.5 points and 8.0 rebounds during Butler’s current winning streak.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in both scoring (17.4) and rebounding (8.2). Howard stands seventh in field goal percentage (.503).

•Matt Howard is leading the Bulldogs, and he ranks sixth in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.840).

•Matt Howard is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank among the league’s “Top 10” players in scoring, rebounding, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and three-point field goal percentage.

•Matt Howard had 11 points and six rebounds before fouling out against Milwaukee in last year’s game at U. S. Cellular Arena.  He had 20 points and nine rebounds on Milwaukee’s homecourt as a sophomore.

•Junior Shelvin Mack scored a career-high 25 points against Milwaukee on Jan. 2, 2010.  He’s matched that total twice since.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 15.3 points and 4.8 assists during Butler’s six-game winning streak.

•Shelvin Mack had a game-high six assists and just one turnover in Butler’s win over Valparaiso.  Mack ranks fifth in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.8).

•Shelvin Mack, who hit a pair of three-point field goals against Valparaiso, now has 156 career three-pointers.  He’s two three-pointers behind Darrin Fitzgerald (1986-87) in 10th place on Butler’s all-time list for three-point field goals. (Fitzgerald accomplished his feat in one season, and he still holds the NCAA record for three-point field goals per game - 5.6).

•The Bulldogs are 34-6 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points and 21-3 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Junior Ronald Nored matched his season-high with four steals in Butler’s victory over Valparaiso.

•Ronald Nored had a career-high eight rebounds in Butler’s last meeting with Milwaukee at the Horizon League Tournament last spring.

•Sophomore Andrew Smith has connected on 20 of his last 26 (.769) field goal attempts, including nine of his last 10.

•Senior Zach Hahn has hit six or 12 shots from beyond the three-point arc in Butler’s last two games.  He had hit just three of 25 three-point field goal attempts in Butler’s previous six games.

•Senior Shawn Vanzant was perfect on four free throw attempts against Valparaiso,  and he’s now connected on his last 14 attempts from the charity stripe.  The 6-1 guard hit eight of eight free throws against Milwaukee on Jan. 2, 2010.

•Freshman Khyle Marshall posted his second collegiate double-figures scoring performance with 10 points against Valparaiso.  The 6-7 forward also grabbed five rebounds in 16 minutes of action.

•Butler, which out-scored Valparaiso 19-5 at the free throw line, is shooting .809 from the charity stripe during its current six-game winning streak.  The Bulldogs have out-scored their last six opponents, 127-71, at the free throw line.

•Butler had a season-low two (of 13) three-point field goals in last year’s game against Milwaukee at U. S. Cellular Arena.  Shelvin Mack and Willie Veasley each hit one long-range shot in the game.

•Butler has won its last 27 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs have hit nine or more three-pointers four times this season.

•The Bulldogs are 44-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers.

•Butler is one of just three NCAA Division I schools to win at least 25 games in each of the last four seasons.  The other two are Kansas and BYU.