Bulldogs Face League-Leading Cleveland State

TOP CHALLENGE:  Butler will try to snap its longest losing skid in more than half a decade when it visits the hottest team in the Horizon League for a nationally-televised game on Saturday, Feb. 5.  The game against league-leading Cleveland State at the Wolstein Center is slated for 12 noon (ET) and will be broadcast on ESPN2.  Butler fell to 14-9 on the season and 6-5 in league play with a 62-60 loss at Youngstown State on Thursday (Feb. 3).  That setback gave the Bulldogs three consecutive losses for the first time since 2004-05 and dropped Butler into a tie for fifth place in the league standings.  The five league losses match Butler’s total for the previous three seasons combined.  Cleveland State maintained its hold on first place in the league with a 76-65 victory over second place Valparaiso on Thursday.  It was the Vikings’ sixth consecutive win, the longest active winning streak in the league.  Cleveland State, which fell at Butler in early January, is unbeaten in 13 games in the Wolstein Center this season and 10 of those wins have come by double-digits.  Following the Cleveland State game, Butler returns home for three straight contests, beginning with a first meeting with UIC on Monday, Feb. 7.                   

Butler has dropped three straight road games and four of its last five.  

NARROW MARGIN:  Six of Butler’s nine losses this season have come by six points or less, including three in overtime.  The Bulldogs have had a lead in the second half in each of their last four setbacks.

Butler’s 14 wins this season have come by an average margin of 16.1 points.

SCORING LEADERS:  Despite scoring just 60 points at Youngstown State, Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in team scoring offense with a 74.2 points per game average.  The Bulldogs have scored 80 or more points in four of their last seven games and in nine total games this season.  Only one other Butler team (2007-08) in the past decade has had as many as six 80-point games, and no Butler team since 1995 has had as many as nine.
 
LAST TIME OUT:  Freshman Kendrick Perry nailed a three-point field goal with 0:21 remaining to cap a 10-0 closing run and lift host Youngstown State over Butler, 62-60.  The Bulldogs missed a final attempt to tie the game and suffered their first loss at Youngstown State since 2005-06.  Butler led by as many as 10 points in the second half and held a 60-52 advantage following Matt Howard’s three-point field goal with 3:51 left.  But those were Butler’s final points of the evening.  Ashen Ward scored five straight points to cut Butler’s margin to three, and then Damian Eargle his a short jumper to make it 60-59 with just over a minute remaining.  Howard had a short jump shot with six seconds left, but it rolled off the rim.  The loss snapped Butler’s 10-game winning streak against the Penguins.

CLOSING STATEMENT:  For the third straight game, Butler failed to hold a second half lead, and for the fifth straight game the Bulldogs were out-scored by their opponent down the stretch.  In the last four losses, the Bulldogs have been out-scored, 56-23, in the closing minutes.  Wright State had a 12-4 closing run against the Bulldogs, Milwaukee finished with a 14-4 run, Valparaiso ended on an 18-12 run and Youngstown State finished with a 12-3 run, including the game’s final 10 points.

REBOUND EFFORT:  Junior Shelvin Mack, who scored just 10 points on three of 12 shooting in Butler’s overtime loss at Valparaiso, bounced back at Youngstown State with a game-high 18 points.  He scored 12 points after intermission, while helping Butler build a 10-point advantage.  The 6-3 guard also led the Bulldogs with a season-high eight rebounds in the game, and he added three assists and a steal in 37 minutes of action.  Mack has put together seven straight double-figures scoring performances since Butler’s last meeting with Cleveland State, when he scored just six points.

Shelvin Mack’s 18 points at Youngstown State were the most he’s scored in a road game since Nov. 16.

STREAK SNAPPED:  Senior Matt Howard had a streak of three consecutive double-doubles snapped at Youngstown State, but he still finished with 12 points and four rebounds.  Howard, Butler’s leading scorer and rebounder on the season, had averaged 21.3 points and 12.0 rebounds over Butler’s previous three games.  

Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in 21 of Butler’s last 22 games.

DEEP THREAT:  Senior Zach Hahn came off the bench and hit three three-point field goals in the second half to help lift Butler to a double-digit lead over Youngstown State.  He missed his first three three-point attempts in the game, but then connected on three of his final four long-range shots.  It was the sixth time this season that Hahn has hit at least three three-pointers in a game.

Zach Hahn has hit 12 of his last 25 three-point field goal attempts.   

PLUS/MINUS:  Butler out-rebounded Youngstown State, 40-30, and had a 14-8 advantage on the offensive boards. It was the fifth time in the last six games that Butler finished with a rebounding advantage.  But the Bulldogs committed 14 turnovers in the game.  It was the fourth time in six games that Butler had at least 14 turnovers.

SMART CHOICE:  Senior Matt Howard was named to the Capital One Academic All-District V Team for the third consecutive year.  Howard, a two-time Academic All-American, was joined on the academic honor squad by Tim Abromaitis of Notre Dame, Blake Hoffarber of Minnesota, Drew Crawford of Northwestern and Ben Botts of IPFW.  The five All-District V performers will be considered, along with players from seven other districts, for Academic All-America recognition later this month.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Matt Howard has been named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, presented for notable achievement in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

•Senior Matt Howard has scored in 127 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.  He has 94 career double-figures scoring performances.

•Matt Howard has moved into sixth place on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,736 career points.  He ranks third on Butler’s all-time rebounding list with 784 career rebounds.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in scoring (17.6) and third rebounding (8.0).

•Matt Howard is leading the Bulldogs, and he ranks ninth in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.801).

•Matt Howard is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank among the league’s “Top 10” players in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3-point FG%.

•Matt Howard has averaged 14.0 points and 6.6 rebounds in nine career games against Cleveland State.  He’s averaged 14.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in three games at the Wolstein Center.

•Matt Howard had 21 point and 13 rebounds at the Wolstein Center last year.

•Matt Howard, who hit three of six three-point field goal attempts at Youngstown State, is second in the Horizon League in 3-point field goal shooting (.462).  Howard, who hit a single long range shot against the Vikings last month, has hit 14 of his last 27 (.519) shots from the three-point arc.

•Junior Shelvin Mack, who had six points against Cleveland State last month, has averaged 10.3 points in six career games against the Vikings.  He had 11 points at the Wolstein Center last year.

•Shelvin Mack has moved into 19th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,255 career points.  He’s 56 points behind Ted Guzek (1954-58) in the No. 18 spot on the Bulldogs’ all-time chart.

•Shelvin Mack stands in 10th place on Butler’s all-time list for three-point field goals.  He’s connected on 172 career three-pointers, two behind Jermaine Guice (1990-94) in ninth place.

•Shelvin Mack stands in ninth place on Butler’s all-time assist chart with 309 career assists.  He’s one assist behind Mike Monserez (2001-04) in the No. 8 spot on Butler’s all-time list.

•Junior Ronald Nored, who had three assists at Youngstown State, has moved into a tie for 12th place on Butler’s all-time assist chart with 271 career assists.  He’s tied with Travis Trice (1993-95) and Tom Orner (1975-79), seven assists behind Darren Fowlkes (1985-89) in the No. 11 spot.

•Ronald Nored needed five stitches to close a cut on his left hand, suffered late in the Youngstown State game.  His playing status against Cleveland State will be a gametime decision.  Nored had 13 points and eight rebounds against Cleveland State last month.

•Sophomore Andrew Smith has connected on 56 of his last 79 (.709) field goal attempts, including 45 of his last 63.  Smith leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.638).

•Andrew Smith, who hit seven of nine shots en route to a career-high 22 points against Cleveland State last month, is shooting 70% (42-60) against Horizon League foes.

•Junior Garrett Butcher, who sat out Butler’s previous three games with deep bone bruise in his lower left leg, came off the bench with four rebounds in eight minutes at Youngstown State.

•Freshman Khyle Marshall had his third career double-figures scoring performance with 11 points against Cleveland State last month.  Marshall has averaged 9.1 points in seven games since that meeting.

•Butler has hit 22 three-point field goals in the past two games.

•The Bulldogs are 45-3 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers.

•Butler has won 25 of its last 26 games when yielding fewer than 60 points.