November 19, 2010

Bulldogs Face Unbeaten Ball State

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STATE CHALLENGE:  Butler will try to bounce back from its first 2010-11 setback, when it hosts Indiana foe Ball State on Saturday, Nov. 20.  The non-league game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will start at 2 p.m. (ET) and will be televised locally on WNDY 23.  The Bulldogs are coming off an 88-73 loss at Louisville on Tuesday (Nov. 16).  The 15-point setback was Butler’s biggest margin of defeat under head coach Brad Stevens, and the largest for the Bulldogs since an 87-71 loss at Milwaukee in 2006.  It was also Butler’s first loss by double-figures since a 10-point decision (67-57) at UAB last December.  The Bulldogs will be playing at home for the second time this season and will be facing the second of three opponents from Indiana on this year’s schedule.  Butler opened the season at home with an 83-54 victory over Marian, and the Bulldogs will host Evansville on Nov. 27.  Ball State is off to a 2-0 start, including a 75-60 victory over Indiana State on Wednesday.                                           

Butler has won 16 consecutive games in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

HOME STYLE:  The Bulldogs were 15-0 in Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, Butler’s first unbeaten home record since 2002-03.  Butler compiled a 30-2 record at home over the past two seasons, and the Bulldogs are 45-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse in four seasons under head coach Brad Stevens.  The Bulldogs have won ten straight home games against opponents from Indiana.

POLLING DATA:  Butler, ranked No. 2 in the final ESPN/USA Today national poll a year ago, opened the 2010-11 season with a No. 17 ranking in the Associated Press (A.P.) preseason poll and a No. 18 ranking in the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll.  It was the second straight season (and the second time in school history) that Butler was nationally-ranked in the preseason.  The Bulldogs are ranked No. 16 in this week’s A.P. poll and No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today poll.

Butler has been nationally-ranked in five consecutive seasons.

TOP DOGS:  Butler was ranked first in the initial CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll and held that spot this week.

LAST TIME OUT:  The Bulldogs fell behind 8-0 in the first two minutes at Louisville and trailed by 18 at halftime of the nationally-televised contest.  It proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome.  Despite playing long stretches of the second half without leading scorer Shelvin Mack, who was battling leg cramps, Butler did manage to cut the margin to 11 points on four occasions, but the host Cardinals had an answer each time.  The game was the first regular season contest in the Cardinals’ new KFC Yum! Center.

Butler gave up 88 points in a game for the first time since 2002.   

BACKCOURT LEADER:  Junior Shelvin Mack has topped the Bulldogs in scoring in each of the team’s first two games.  He tallied 20 points in 28 minutes in Butler’s season-opening victory over Marian and then posted 25 points in 27 minutes at Louisville.  Mack hit nine of 14 shots against Marian and eight of 17 at Louisville.  It was the 20th and 21st times in his Butler career that Mack led the Bulldogs in scoring.

Shelvin Mack has scored 20 or more points in 14 career games.   

SPLITTING TIME:  Butler played all but four minutes of the first half without leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Matt Howard, who picked up two early fouls.  Shelvin Mack shouldered much of the Bulldogs’ scoring in that initial 20 minutes, finishing the first half with 17 points.  Mack then spent 12 minutes on the bench in the second half, battling leg cramps.  Howard stepped in and carried much of Butler’s scoring responsibilities in the second half, posting 21 of his season-high 23 points in the final 20 minutes.

BOARDING PASS:  Sophomore Andrew Smith came off the bench at Louisville and matched his career-high with eight rebounds in 22 minutes against the Cardinals.  Smith led all players on both teams in the first half with seven rebounds in 15 minutes.  The 6-10 center also had eight rebounds in a reserve stint against Green Bay a year ago.  Smith led Indiana in rebounding as a high school senior.

BETTER HALF:  The Bulldogs out-scored Louisville, 50-47, in the final 20 minutes on Tuesday.  Butler hit 14 of 30 (.467) shots in the final period, while adding 18 of 28 attempts from the free throw line.  The 50 points matched the season-high, second half total Butler tallied against UTEP in the first round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

THEFT RING:  Butler came up with 10 steals at Louisville, after recording nine steals three days earlier against Marian.  Junior Ronald Nored, who had a team-high four steals against Marian, was one of four Bulldogs to record a pair of steals against Louisville.  Senior Matt Howard and Zach Hahn and freshman Chrishawn Hopkins also picked up two steals in the game.

Butler had 10 steals in last year’s game at Ball State.

SCORING WATCH:  Senior Matt Howard stands 15th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,360 career points.  He trails Rylan Hainje (1998-2002) in 14th place on the all-time list by 28 points.  Howard needs 125 points to reach the “Top 10” in all-time scoring at Butler.

STATE LEADER:  Butler has won its last 16 games against opponents from Indiana.  The Bulldogs’ last loss to an Indiana foe came at Indiana State in 2006.  Butler has led all Division I schools in Indiana in victories in each of the last four seasons.  

FIRST DEFENSE:  Butler picked up where it left off last spring with a solid performance at the defensive end of the floor in its season-opener against Marian.  The Bulldogs forced 16 turnovers and limited their NAIA opponent to 42% shooting, while yielding just 54 points.  Last spring, Butler held five of six NCAA Tournament foes below 60 points.

Butler was 20-0 in 2009-10 when holding its opponent below 60 points.

PRESEASON HONORS:  Shelvin Mack has already been recognized on several preseason All-America teams.  Mack was chosen first team All-America, along with Kyle Singler of Duke, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina, Jared Sullinger of Ohio State and Jacob Pullen of Kansas State, by Fox Sports.com, and he was named honorable mention All-America by the Associated Press.  The 6-3 Butler guard also was ranked fourth among top 2010-11 point guards and combo guards by Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.com.  He was named to the John Wooden Award 2010-11 Preseason Top 50 list, and he’s on the 2010-11 Naismith preseason watch list.  Mack was chosen as the Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year and named first team preseason All-League.

EXHIBITION LEADER:  Senior Matt Howard averaged 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in Butler’s two exhibition wins.  His 19 points against Florida Southern were the most by a Butler player in the two exhibition tests, as were his 10 rebounds against Hanover.  The 6-8 forward, who had 12 points against Hanover, shot .632 (12-19) from the field and .778 (7-9) from the free throw line in the two games.  Howard, who averaged just 22 minutes per game in the two contests, was the lone Bulldog to score in double-figures in each of the two exhibition games.

SUCCESSFUL DECADE:  The Bulldogs’ victory over Green Bay on Dec. 31, 2009, closed out the most successful decade in Butler basketball history.  Butler won nearly 70% of its games during the decade, posting a 10-year record of 236-103 (.696).  The Bulldogs had eight 20-win seasons, earned eight postseason tournament bids and had a pair of NCAA Sweet 16 appearances from 1999-2000 to 2008-09!

RECORD RUN:  Butler’s 118 wins over the four seasons from 2006-2010 set a school and Horizon League record for most wins in four consecutive years.  The Bulldogs also own the Horizon League’s two-year (59, 2006-08 & 2008-10) and three-year (89, 2007-10) records for victories.

Butler has won at least 20 games in five consecutive seasons and in 12 of the past 14 campaigns.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Ball State is the lone team from the Mid-American Conference on Butler’s schedule for the fourth straight year.  The Bulldogs have won their last six games against opponents from the MAC.

•Senior Matt Howard stands in 13th place on Butler’s all-time rebounding list with 615 career rebounds.  He’s 10 rebounds behind J. P. Brens (1989-93) in the No. 12 position.

•Matt Howard has scored in 106 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.

•Matt Howard is one of 30 candidates nominated for the 2010-11 Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award.  The award is presented to one senior who has shown notable achievement in four areas of excellence - classroom, character, community and competition.

•Matt Howard made his collegiate debut against Ball State in Muncie in 2007.  He hit five of nine shots in the game and finished with 14 points, five rebounds and four assists.

•Junior Shelvin Mack is closing in on becoming the 33rd Butler player to reach 1,000 career points.  Mack enters the Ball State contest with 9563 career tallies.

•Shelvin Mack hit just one of six field goal attempts and scored just six points against Ball State in 2008-09.  He had 15 points against the Cardinals last year.  

•Shelvin Mack has 135 career three-point field goals.  He’s 23 three-pointers behind Darrin Fitzgerald (1986-87) in 10th place on Butler’s all-time list for three-point field goals.

•The Bulldogs are 29-5 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points and 18-3 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Junior guard Ronald Nored had four steals in Butler’s season-opener, one shy of his career-high set against both Valparaiso and Syracuse last year.  He had two steals at Louisville.  Nored led the Bulldogs in steals (67) last year.

•Senior Zach Hahn had a career-high five assists in a reserve stint at Louisville.  He also had two steals in the game, one off his career-high.

•Junior Garrett Butcher made his first collegiate start in Butler’s season-opener against Marian.  Butcher, who had off-season surgery on both knees, played in 64 games in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs.

•The 11 points that Ball State scored in the first half against Butler a year ago were the fewest allowed by the Bulldogs in one half last season.  The last time Butler held a team to fewer first half points was in the 2001 NCAA Tournament, when the Bulldogs limited Wake Forest to 10 points.

•Butler has won its last 23 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.  The Bulldogs are 40-1 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.

•Butler is the first team in Horizon League history to record four consecutive seasons of 25 wins or more.  The Bulldogs won 29 games in 2006-07, 30 in 2007-08, 26 in 2008-09 and 33 last season.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens landed four recruits on the first day of the NCAA’s fall signing period.  Joining the Bulldogs’ 2011-12 freshman class were 6-4 Roosevelt Jones of O’Fallon, Ill., 6-1 Jackson Aldridge of Sydney, Australia, 6-6 Andy Smeathers of Bargersville (Center Grove H.S.) and 6-9 Kameron Woods of Louisville, Ky. (Eastern H.S.).  Jones averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds for 30-4 O’Fallon last year, while Aldridge was a gold medal-winning point-guard on Australia’s U18 team.  Smeathers, averaged 14 points for 17-4 Center Grove, while Woods averaged 7.0 points and 7.0 rebounds at Eastern, one of the top prep teams in Kentucky.