Butler Rings In New Year Against Valparaiso

2011 TIP-OFF:  Butler will bid a fond farewell to 2010 and try for a successful start to 2011 when it hosts Horizon League foe Valparaiso on Saturday, Jan. 1.  The New Year’s Day matinee will tip-off at 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse and will be televised locally on WNDY-TV.  The Bulldogs (9-4, 1-0 Horizon League) will be returning to action for the first time since capturing the championship trophy at the eight-team Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii.  Butler defeated Washington State, 84-68, in the tournament’s title game on Christmas Day.  Valparaiso (10-4, 2-0 HL) closed its 2010 slate at home with a 69-52 victory over Ball State on Tuesday (Dec. 28).  It was the fourth straight win for the Crusaders, who also captured a holiday tournament title with wins over Eastern Michigan and Oakland at the Lou Henson Award Tournament.  The Bulldogs began 2010 with 24 consecutive victories and ended the year with five straight wins.  Along the way, Butler made its first-ever Final Four appearance and claimed a national runner-up finish.   

Butler was 33-5 in 2010 with three tournament championships.  

HOME FLOOR:  Butler is returning to Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time since Dec. 18, when the Bulldogs defeated Stanford, 83-50.  It was Butler’s second consecutive win at home and fourth victory in five home tests this season.  The Bulldogs, who were 15-0 at home last season, are 48-4 at home under head coach Brad Stevens and have wins in 19 of their last 20 contests in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Butler has traveled more than 12,500 miles since the start of the season.  

LEAGUE RE-START:  Butler and Valparaiso are resuming Horizon League play for the first time since early December.  The Bulldogs, tabbed as the pre-season favorite in this year’s Horizon League race, began league play with a 65-63 victory at Loyola on Dec. 1.  Valparaiso, picked fourth in the league’s pre-season poll, opened league play with victories at UIC, 68-66 in overtime, and at Loyola, 66-56.  Butler currently has tied the Horizon League record of 21 consecutive league wins.

LAST TIME OUT:  Junior Shelvin Mack led four Butler players in double-figures with 20 points and the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to hand Washington State its second loss in 12 outings, 84-68.  The final tally gave Butler the 2010 Diamond Head Classic championship trophy.  Mack scored 15 points in the first half to help Butler grab a slim, 40-38, halftime lead.  The first 20 minutes of the game saw the score tied eight times and 18 lead changes!  There were no lead changes in the second half.  The Bulldogs opened the final period with an 18-2 run and Washington State never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.  Senior Zach Hahn keyed the opening run with eight consecutive points, and sophomore Andrew Smith finished the flurry with back-to-back baskets.        

MVP:  Senior Matt Howard, who averaged 18.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in Butler’s three games in Hawaii, was named the Most Valuable Player of the 2010 Diamond Head Classic.  The 6-8 forward had team-high rebound totals in all three tournament games, and he topped the Bulldogs in scoring in two of the three contests.  He opened the tournament with 23 points and six rebounds against Utah and then posted 19 points and nine rebounds against Florida State.  The Butler ace finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds in the title game, his fifth double-double of the season.  Howard was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammate Shelvin Mack, Klay Thompson of Washington State, Chris Singleton of Florida State and LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor.  Howard’s performance in Hawaii earned him Horizon League Co-Player of the Week honors.     

Matt Howard finished third in rebounding and fourth in scoring at the Diamond Head Classic.  

ISLAND MAGIC:  Four different Butler players wound up posting career scoring highs during the Bulldogs’ run to the Diamond Head Classic title.  Sophomore Andrew Smith tallied a career-high 14 points in the tournament championship game, while sophomore Chase Stigall came off the bench with a career-best 11 points in Butler’s win over Florida State in the semifinals.  Junior Ronald Nored matched his career high with 16 points and freshman Khyle Marshall posted his first collegiate double-figures scoring performance with 11 points in the Bulldogs’ victory over Utah.
 
DEEP THOUGHTS:  The Bulldogs had season-highs of 11 three-point field goals and 27 three-point field goal attempts against both Florida State and Washington State.  The 11 three-pointers were the most for Butler since last year’s NCAA Tournament, when the Bulldogs connected on 13 long-range shots in an opening-round victory over UTEP.  Butler 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 (7.5).  

CHARITABLE EFFORT:  Butler out-scored its three tournament opponents, 57-39, at the free throw line.  Only host Hawaii had more free throws made in the tournament.  The Bulldogs shot .721 from the line in the three games, including .783 (18-23) in the victory over Florida State.  In the three games prior to arriving in Hawaii, Butler connected on 67 of 76 (.882) charity tosses, including a season-best .906 (29-32) in the victory over Mississippi Valley State.

Butler leads the Horizon League in team free throw shooting (.741).  

CHALLENGING START:  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.  Eleven of Butler’s first 13 opponents currently have a winning record.  The Bulldogs’ 12 Division I opponents currently boast a combined 91-48 record.

Butler’s Strength of Schedule is ranked third on RealTimeRPI.com.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Senior Matt Howard has scored in 117 consecutive Butler games, every game of his collegiate career.

•Matt Howard recorded his 12th straight game in double-figures this season with his 14 points against Washington State.  Howard has 85 career games in double-figures.

•Matt Howard is averaging 21.8 points and 8.0 rebounds during Butler’s current winning streak.  He’s shooting .508 (33-65) from the field and .860 (37-43) from the free throw line over the past five games.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in both scoring (18.1) and rebounding (8.2). Howard stands sixth in the league in field goal percentage (.514).

•Matt Howard, who had made just five three-point field goals prior to this season, has hit 14 of 31 long range shots this year.  He’s connected on 12 of his last 21 three-point attempts, and he stands third in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.452).

•Matt Howard is leading the Bulldogs, and he ranks fourth in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.833).

•Matt Howard is averaging 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  The Butler forward is shooting .636 (28-44) from the field and .897 (35-39) from the free throw line in five games on Butler’s homecourt.
•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 posted his first 20-point scoring performance since early November and the 14th of his Butler career with a team-high 20 points in the championship game.  Mack tied for sixth in scoring at the Diamond Head Classic with 50 points.

•Shelvin Mack was fourth in assists (10) and steals (6) at the Diamond Head Classic.  He tied for fourth in the tournament in three-point field goals (8).

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 15.6 points and 4.2 assists during Butler’s five-game winning streak.

•Shelvin Mack, who hit three three-point field goals against Washington State, has 154 career three-pointers.  He’s four 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 33-6 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points and 20-3 when he leads the team in scoring.

•Junior Ronald Nored, who matched his career-high with 16 points against Utah, was Butler’s third-leading scorer in Hawaii with a 9.0 average.  Nored, who scored just 13 points in Butler’s first five games this season, has averaged 8.4 points during Butler’s five-game winning streak.

•Ronald Nored shot a team-best .813 (13-16) from the free throw line in Hawaii.  He entered the Diamond Head Classic with a .577 free throw percentage.

•Sophomore Andrew Smith was perfect on five field goals attempts against Washington State.  Smith connected on six of the eight shots he attempted in the tournament.

•Senior Zach Hahn broke out of a six-game drought with 14 points, all in the second half, against Washington State.  The Butler guard had scored just 11 points in the Bulldogs’ previous six games.

•Sophomore Chase Stigall shared the team lead with eight three-point field goals at the Diamond Head Classic.

•Butler led the Diamond Head Classic in assists (12.3). The Bulldogs had 16 assists in the championship game against Washington State.

•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.