TITLE TILT: For the third time in as many
trips to Hawaii, Butler will be playing for a tournament
championship. The Bulldogs will square off against Washington
State in the title game of the 2010 Diamond Head Classic at 9:30
p.m. (ET) on Christmas Day. The game at the Stan Sheriff
Center in Honolulu will be televised on ESPN2. The Bulldogs
(8-4) advanced to the championship game with victories over Utah,
74-62, and Florida State, 67-64, while Washington State (10-1)
defeated Mississippi State, 83-57, and #15 Baylor, 77-71, in the
first two rounds of the tournament. Butler finished runner-up
in its previous two tournament bids in Hawaii. The Bulldogs
dropped the title game of the 2002 the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow
Classic to host Hawaii, 81-78 in overtime, and fell in the
championship game of the 1997 Big Island Invitational in Hilo,
Hawaii to #15 Stanford, 99-86.
Butler is 6-2 all-time in Hawaii.
TOURNAMENT ACTION: Butler is playing in its third regular season tournament under head coach Brad Stevens. The Bulldogs claimed the championship of the 2007 Great Alaska Shootout with victories over Michigan, Virginia Tech and Texas Tech in Stevens’ first year as a head coach. A year ago, Butler wound up sixth in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., with a win over UCLA and losses to #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson. Stevens has led Butler to three post-season tournament titles.
LAST TIME OUT: Senior Matt Howard scored 19 points, junior Shelvin Mack added 17, all in the second half, and the Bulldogs held off a late charge by the Seminoles to defeat Florida State, 67-64, in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic. Butler, behind Mack’s hot hand, built a 15-point lead, 51-36, with just under nine minutes remaining in the contest. But Florida State found an even hotter hand in junior Chris Singleton. The 6-9 forward scored 26 points in the second half (28 for the game) and sparked the Seminoles’ comeback with 13 points in the final nine minutes. Florida State cut Butler’s lead to four points, 60-56, with just under a minute remaining, but the Bulldogs held on by hitting seven of eight free throw attempts in the final 0:45.
HOT ‘DOG: Senior Matt Howard, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Week, led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fourth consecutive game with 19 points against Florida State. The 6-8 Butler forward scored six points, while helping the Bulldogs to a 21-19 halftime lead, and then added 13 more points in the second half to help seal the victory. Howard also topped the Bulldogs in rebounding for the third straight game with nine.
Matt Howard is averaging 23.8 points over Butler’s four-game winning streak.
BREAKOUT EFFORT: Junior Shelvin Mack, mired in a shooting slump since suffering leg cramps in the second half of Butler’s game against Duke, returned to form in the second half against Florida State. Mack, who was shooting just 27% (12-44) since leaving the Duke contest, hit four of five shots from the floor, all from beyond the three-point arc, and added five of six from the free throw line in the final 20 minutes against Florida State. His 17 points in the win were his most since Nov. 20, when he tallied 19 points against Ball State.
DEEP THOUGHTS: The Bulldogs connected on a season-high 11 three-point field goals against Florida State. Seven of Butler’s 11 field goals in the final 20 minutes came from beyond the three-point arc! The 11 three-pointers were the most for the Bulldogs since last year’s NCAA Tournament, when Butler connected on 13 long-range shots in an opening-round victory over UTEP. The Bulldogs had just four three-pointers in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic against Utah.
Butler is second in the Horizon League in three-point field goals per game (7.3).
CHARITABLE SEASON: Butler sealed its victory over Florida State by hitting seven of eight free throw attempts in the final 0:45, and the Bulldogs shot .783 (18-23) from the line for the game. It was a return to form for the Bulldogs, who shot just .688 (22-32) from the charity stripe in their victory over Utah. In the three games prior to arriving in Hawaii, Butler was shooting at a .882 (67-76) clip from the free throw line, including a season-best .906 (29-32) in the victory over Mississippi Valley State.
Butler leads the Horizon League in team free throw shooting (.744).
HANDLE WITH CARE: Butler had just five turnovers in the second half against Florida State and 11 turnovers for the game. That effort came one game after the Bulldogs finished with just seven total turnovers against Utah. In the past four games, Butler has averaged just 8.0 turnovers.
Butler leads the Horizon League in fewest turnovers per game (10.8).
CHART CLIMBING: Senior Matt Howard moved into the number eight spot on Butler’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists with his performance against Florida State. He enters the Diamond Head Classic championship game with 1,551 career points and 695 career rebounds. Howard is one of just four players (Chad Tucker, Lynn Mitchem and Darren Fowlkes are the other three) who rank in Butler’s all-time “Top 10” for both scoring and rebounding.
MOVING UP: Junior Shelvin Mack, who became the 33rd Butler player to score 1,000 career points in November, has moved into 29th place on Butler’s all-time scoring chart with 1,095 career points. He trails Joel Cornette (1999-2003) in 28th place on the Bulldogs’ career chart by just five points, and he’s eight points behind Dave Sanders (1962-65) in the No. 27 spot.
EARLY CHALLENGES: Florida State was the fifth team Butler has faced this season from last year’s NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs also have played Louisville, Siena, “Sweet 16” team Xavier and defending national champ Duke, all away from Hinkle Fieldhouse. Ten of Butler’s twelve 2010-11 opponents currently have a winning record. The Bulldogs’ first 11 Division I opponents currently boast a combined 77-43 record.
•Senior Matt Howard has scored in 116 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.
•Matt Howard recorded his 11th straight game in double-figures this season with his 19 points against Florida State. Howard has 84 career games in double-figures.
•Matt Howard led the Bulldogs in scoring for the eighth time this season with his performance against Florida State. Howard has been Butler’s leading scorer 40 times during his career.
•Matt Howard is shooting .565 (26-46) from the field and .939 (31-33) from the free throw line in Butler’s last four games, all wins.
•Matt Howard currently ranks second in the Horizon League in both scoring (18.4) and rebounding (8.0). Howard stands fifth in the league in field goal percentage (.527).
•Matt Howard, who had made just five three-point field goals prior to this season, has hit 12 of 26 long range shots this year. He’s connected on 10 of his last 16 three-point attempts, and he stands second in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.462).
•Matt Howard is leading the Bulldogs, and he ranks fourth in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.839). Howard had connected on 40 of his last 42 (.952) free throw attempts prior to arriving in Hawaii.
•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 a game-high five assists against Florida State. It was the fourth time in six games that he led the Bulldogs in assists. He has 269 career assists, and he’s nine assists shy of Darren Fowlkes (1985-89) in 10th place on Butler’s all-time assist chart.
•Shelvin Mack matched his career-high with three steals against Florida State.
•Shelvin Mack posted his tenth double-figures scoring performance this season with his 17 points against Florida State.
•Shelvin Mack, who hit three of four three-point field goals against Florida State, has 151 career three-pointers. He’s seven 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 32-6 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points and 19-3 when he leads the team in scoring.
•Junior Ronald Nored, who had a career-high 16 points against Utah, posted his third-highest point total of the season with eight points against Florida State. Nored, who’s averaging 9.8 points over Butler’s current four-game winning streak, had scored just 13 total points in his first five games this season.
•Ronald Nored has hit 12 of 14 free throws in two games in Hawaii. He entered the Diamond Head Classic shooting just .577 from the free throw line.
•Sophomore Chase Stigall came off the bench with a career-high 11 points against Florida State. Stigall is the second Butler player to record his first career double-figures scoring performance in Hawaii. Freshman Khyle Marshall had his first collegiate twin-digits performance with a career-high 11 points one night earlier against Utah.
•Chase Stigall had a career-high six rebounds in Butler’s victory over Utah, and he had a career-high five three-point field goal attempts against Florida State.
•Butler has won its last 26 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals. The Bulldogs have hit nine or more three-pointers three times this season.
•The Bulldogs are 43-1 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers.
•The Bulldogs has won 24 of its last 25 games when yielding fewer than 60 points. Butler has held five of its first 12 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.