Butler Visits Atlantic 10 Power Xavier

TRAVELING SHOW:  Butler will wrap up a stretch of three consecutive games away from home when it visits Atlantic 10 Conference power Xavier for a non-league tilt on Thursday, Dec. 9.  The game at the Cintas Center on Xavier’s campus will start at 9 p.m. (ET) and will be televised nationally on ESPN2.  Butler (4-3) is coming off an 82-70 loss to No. 1 Duke at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday (Dec. 4).  Prior to that nationally-televised game, the Bulldogs visited previously-unbeaten Loyola and began Horizon League play with a 65-63 victory. Four-time A-10 champion Xavier also is coming off a road test, a 75-64 loss at Miami (Ohio).  It was the Musketeers’ first true road game of the season.  Xavier (5-2) is 3-0 at home this season and boasts the nation’s second-longest homecourt winning streak with 27 consecutive victories in the Cintas Center.  Only Kansas (64) has a longer homecourt winning streak.  Following the Xavier game, Butler will return home to host Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. (ET) on Saturday (Dec. 11).              

Butler is the last team to beat Xavier in the Cintas Center (2008-09).

ROAD WORK:  Butler’s early season slate has already taken the Bulldogs into several of the nation’s toughest venues.  The Bulldogs were “guests” of Louisville for the opening of the new KFC Yum! Center, and Butler played Siena at the Times Union Center, where the Saints had won 38 of their previous 39 games.  Butler also played top-ranked Duke at the IZOD Center, where the Blue Devils boast a 19-1 record.  Xavier will be the fourth team from last year’s NCAA Tournament that Butler has faced this year, all away from home.

RATINGS GAME:  Two years ago, Xavier was ranked No. 14 when the Bulldogs came to the Cintas Center to play.  Last year, Butler was ranked #17 when it hosted Xavier at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Both teams are unranked this year, though Butler was ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today poll on Nov. 15.  Butler’s overtime loss to Evansville knocked the Bulldogs out of both college basketball polls for the first time since Dec. 22, 2008.   

LAST TIME OUT:  Top-ranked Duke used a 12-0 scoring run midway through the second half to take control of a tightly-contested game and claim a 12-point victory, 82-70.  With the Bulldogs clinging to a 44-42 lead, Duke guard Nolan Smith started the run with three consecutive free throws.  Forward Kyle Singler followed with back-to-back baskets, guard Andre Dawkins added a conventional three-point play and center Mason Plumlee capped the run with a slam dunk to give Duke a 54-44 lead with just under 11 minutes remaining.  Butler did close to within three points, 60-57, on a three-point field goal by senior Shawn Vanzant, but the Blue Devils used a 14-5 run to regain control.  The game, a rematch of last year’s NCAA national title contest, featured nine ties and 11 lead changes.

CRAMPED COMEBACK:  Butler played the final 13 minutes against Duke without junior guard Shelvin Mack, who went to the sidelines with leg cramps.  At the time of his injury, the Bulldogs trailed, 45-44.  Butler’s comeback attempts were hampered further when starting guard Zach Hahn fouled out with just under 12 minutes remaining.  Starting forward Andrew Smith (injury) played just eight minutes in the second half, while leading scorer Matt Howard was limited to just eight minutes in the first half by foul problems.  Only one of Butler’s starters (Ronald Nored) played more than 24 minutes in the game.

BENCH LIFT:  Senior Shawn Vanzant came off the bench and led the Bulldogs with 14 points against Duke.  It was the second-highest point total of his Butler career, behind the 20 points he scored against Milwaukee as a sophomore.  Vanzant helped Butler’s bench out-score Duke, 33-13.

LONG-RANGERS:  The Bulldogs connected on eight of 15 attempts from beyond the three-point arc against Duke, including five of nine (.556) in the second half.  Seven different players contributed to Butler’s long-range, sharp-shooting, with senior Shawn Vanzant hitting two of three distance shots to lead the way.  The Bulldogs, currently second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.374), have connected on 17 of 33 (.515) three-point field goal attempts in the past two games.

Butler has won its last 24 games when hitting at least nine three-pointers.  

POINT BOOST:  Junior point-guard Ronald Nored, who missed Butler’s games against Evansville and Loyola, returned to the Bulldogs’ lineup against Duke.  Nored, a starter in 70 of 75 career games, suffered a head injury in a collision early in Butler’s victory at Siena and was sidelined with concussion symptoms.  Nored was the Horizon League Co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2009-10.

NO. 11:  Senior Matt Howard has moved into a tie with Bobby Plump (1954-58) for 11th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,439 career points.  He needs 46 points to catch Jon Neuhouser (1994-08) in the No. 10 spot on the all-time list.  Howard also stands 11th on Butler’s all-time rebounding list with 650 career rebounds.  He’s eight rebounds shy of Rylan Hainje (1998-2002) in the No. 10 position.  Four former players (Chad Tucker, Lynn Mitchem, Darren Fowlkes and Neuhouser) rank in Butler’s all-time “Top 10” for both scoring and rebounding.  

SCORING LADDER:  Junior Shelvin Mack became the 33rd Butler player to score 1,000 career points, during the Bulldogs’ game against Evansville.  The 6-3 guard topped the 1,000-point mark with a pair of free throws with 2:31 remaining in regulation play.  He enters this week’s games in 31st place on Butler’s all-time scoring chart with 1,024 career points, four points behind Dave Bennett (1968-71) in 30th place on the Bulldogs’ career list.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Senior Matt Howard has scored in 111 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.

•Matt Howard scored 13 points in 24 minutes against Duke.  It was his sixth straight game in double-figures this season.

•Matt Howard’s 14 rebounds in his first visit to the Cintas Center two years ago remain his career-high.  He’s averaged 15.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in two career meetings with the Musketeers.

•Matt Howard currently ranks second in the Horizon League in rebounding (8.7), and he’s sixth in the circuit in scoring (15.6).  Howard stands sixth in FG% (.522).

•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.

•Junior Shelvin Mack had 11 points, team-highs of six rebounds and five assists, and two steals in 21 minutes, before leaving the Duke game with leg cramps.

•Shelvin Mack has 140 career three-point field goals.  He’s 18 three-pointers behind Darrin Fitzgerald (1986-87) in 10th place on Butler’s all-time list for three-point field goals.

•The Bulldogs are 30-5 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points and 19-3 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Junior Ronald Nored posted his first collegiate double-figures scoring performance in Butler’s game against Xavier at the Cintas Center two years ago.  Just a freshman at the time, Nored tallied 10 points as a starter in the Butler win.

•Ronald Nored didn’t score in his return to action against Duke, but he did have four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 26 minutes of action.

•Senior Zach Hahn didn’t play at Xavier two years ago, and he had just one three-point field goal in 10 minutes in last years meeting.  Hahn has started Butler’s last five games, and he’s the team’s fourth-leading scorer (7.4).

•Zach Hahn currently stands 10th in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.833).  Hahn has hit 15 of 18 free throw attempts this season.

•Zach Hahn and Shelvin Mack are tied for 10th in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (11).

•Senior Shawn Vanzant matched his career-high with six field goals against Duke.  Vanzant scored 12 of his team-high 14 points in the second half.

•Junior Garrett Butcher came off the bench and matched his season-high with seven points, all in the first half, against Duke.

•Sophomore Chase Stigall, who had five points off the bench against Duke, ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting.  Stigall has hit eight of 18 (.444) long-range shots this season.

•Sophomore Andrew Smith matched his career-high with 10 points and added five rebounds in 22 minutes against top-ranked Duke.  Smith sat out a significant portion of the second half, after taking a blow to the head.

•The Bulldogs are 41-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers.  Butler currently is second in the Horizon League in three-point field goals per game (7.4).

•The Bulldogs have won 23 consecutive games when yielding fewer than 60 points.  Butler has held three of its first seven opponents this season under 60 points.

•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.

•Former Butler player Jody Littrell has been named to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame’s 2011 Silver Anniversary Team.  Littrell, who was a standout high school player at Columbus East High School, finished his Butler career in 1990 as the Bulldogs’ all-time leader in three-point field goals, and he still stands seventh on the school’s all-time list with 181 career three-pointers.