#21/20 Butler Hosts Hot Horizon League Foe

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FEATURE ATTRACTION: Butler (12-1, 3-0 Horizon League), coming off its third conference road win, will play its first Horizon League home game this season against the hottest team in the league. The Bulldogs will host Wright State (8-7, 2-2 HL) on Thursday, Jan. 8, in a 7 p.m. (ET) contest that will be televised locally on MyNDY 23. Wright State brings a league-best, six-game winning streak to Hinkle Fieldhouse, including victories over league preseason favorite Cleveland State and Youngstown State last week. The Raiders, who won the San Juan Shootout in December, have captured eight of their last nine contests, with the lone setback coming to unbeaten Wake Forest. The Bulldogs, ranked nationally and owning a league-high win total, opened the 2009 portion of their schedule with a 75-62 victory at Valparaiso on Saturday (Jan. 3). It was Butler's fourth straight win. The Bulldogs will close their brief two-game homestand against Detroit on Saturday, Jan. 10.

Butler is seeking to improve to 4-0 in Horizon League play for the first time since 2002-03.

BEST STARTS: The Bulldogs have tied the second best 13-game record in Butler basketball history. Butler's 2001-02 team both posted a 13-0 start for the best 13-game record. Six other Butler teams started with 12 wins in the first 13 games.

POLLING PLACE: Butler has cracked the "Top 25" of both major national polls for the first time this season. The Bulldogs climbed from 25th to 21st in this week's Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and debuted at No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Butler was ranked in both national polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year.

FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Butler is 6-0 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and the Bulldogs have won ten straight games on their homecourt since dropping a seven-point decision to nationally-ranked Drake last season. The Bulldogs boast wins in 48 of their last 52 contests in Hinkle Fieldhouse, including 27 of their last 28 Horizon League games. Butler is 116-15 (.885) at home since 1999-00.

LAST TIME OUT: Sparked by sophomore Matt Howard and freshman Gordon Hayward, the Bulldogs out-scored Valparaiso, 44-31, in the second half to break open a tight game and record their third straight Horizon League road win. Howard and Hayward combined for all 19 points in a 19-4 Butler run in the first nine minutes of the final period. That initial outburst proved decisive, as the host Crusaders never got closer than six points for the rest of the contest. The two teams had battled to a standoff in the first 20 minutes. Butler junior Willie Veasley scored 10 points in the first seven minutes of the game to help the Bulldogs to a 17-8 advantage, but the Crusaders answered with a 19-3 scoring run to take a seven-point lead with just under six minutes left in the first half. The game was tied at halftime, 31-31.

Butler has out-scored 10 of 13 opponents in the second half this season.

THE CLOSER: Sophomore Matt Howard scored 14 of his team-high 16 points in the second half to help Butler pull away from Valparaiso. The 6-8 forward gave Butler the lead for good with a lay-up and a free throw 27 seconds into the second half, and he added seven more points in the next eight minutes to help the Bulldogs build a double-digit lead. He hit all four shots that he attempted against the Crusaders and eight of his nine attempts from the free throw line. Howard also fueled Butler's second half rally against UAB, one game earlier. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the final 20 minutes against the Blazers to help the Bulldogs overcome an 11-point second half deficit. The Butler scoring leader has averaged 14.0 points in the second half of Butler's last three games.

Matt Howard has scored 63% (115 of 182) of his points in the second half this season.

DOUBLE TAKE: Freshman Gordon Hayward recorded his second career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds at Valparaiso. He hit three three-point field goals in just over a four minute stretch of the second half to help the Bulldogs build a decisive lead over the host Crusaders. The 6-8 forward also helped limit Valparaiso's opportunities by pulling down a career-high 12 defensive rebounds. Hayward shared the team lead in assists with four, recorded a team-high two steals and added a blocked shot in the win. Earlier this season, the first-year Butler player posted 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulldogs' victory at Xavier.

Gordon Hayward has averaged 10.7 rebounds in Butler's last three games.

HOT START: Junior Willie Veasley ignited the Bulldogs with a career-performance at Valparaiso. The 6-3 forward hit five of six shots, including two of three from beyond the three-point arc, and all three of the free throws he attempted in the first 20 minutes of the game! He only attempted one shot in the second half and finished with a career-high 15 points. Veasley matched his career-high with 35 minutes played in the game.

LONG DISTANCE OPERATORS: The Bulldogs connected on 10 three-point field goals for the second consecutive game, while dispatching Valparaiso. Butler hit six three-pointers in the first half and then added four more in the final 20 minutes. It was the fifth time this season that the Bulldogs hit at least 10 three-pointers in a game.

Butler is 8-0 this season when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.

CHARITY WORK: Butler had its second-best free throw shooting performance of the season in the win at Valparaiso. The Bulldogs connected on 19 of 23 (.826) free throw attempts in the game, including 14 of 18 in the final 20 minutes. It was the third consecutive game that Butler hit at least 19 charity tosses. Butler's best free throw performance this season was a 13 of 15 (.867) effort at Ohio State.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is ranked third in this week's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Illinois State (14-0) is the top-ranked mid-major, while Gonzaga (8-4) is ranked second.

•The Bulldogs were third in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) behind unbeaten Pittsburgh and Duke, as of Tuesday, Jan. 5. Butler was ranked in the Top 10 in the RPI for most of the November and December.

•Butler has won 14 consecutive Horizon League regular season games, dating back to last season. The Bulldogs' last Horizon League setback came at Cleveland State on Jan. 17, 2008.

•The Bulldogs boast a league-high six road wins this season.

•The Bulldogs out-rebounded Valparaiso, 36-22. That matched Butler's biggest rebounding edge this season, and it was the biggest against a Division I opponent. Butler has out-rebounded eight of 13 foes.

•Freshman Shelvin Mack posted his sixth double-figures scoring performance in Butler's last seven games with 14 points at Valparaiso. He also shared the team lead in assists against the Crusaders with four.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant matched his career-highs with six points and two assists at Valparaiso. Vanzant has scored six points in each of Butler's past two games.

•Sophomore Grant Leiendecker matched his career-high with six points in ten minutes of reserve action at Valparaiso.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.2), fewest turnovers (12.2) and three-point field goals (9.1). The Bulldogs are second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.378), turnover margin (+3.0) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1).

•Butler's Shelvin Mack is the top scoring freshman in the Horizon League. He ranks ninth overall with a 13.3 average, just ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward (10th, 12.9).

•The Bulldogs feature three of the top five free throw shooters in the current Horizon League stats. Shelvin Mack ranks third in the league (.846), Gordon Hayward is fourth (.788) and Matt Howard is fifth (.777).

•Butler boasts three of the top eight players in the Horizon League in three-point field goals made. Shelvin Mack ranks third (2.2), Gordon Hayward is fourth (2.1) and sophomore Zach Hahn is eighth (1.6).

•Gordon Hayward is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank in the "Top 10" in the league in scoring (10th, 12.9), rebounding (5th, 6.5), field goal shooting (5th, .481), three-point field goal shooting (2nd, .458), free throw shooting (4th, .788), three-point field goals (4th, 2.1), steals (7th-tie, 1.6) and blocked shots (8th, 0.9)!

•Sophomore Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (3.2) and blocked shots (1.4). He stands fourth in rebounding (6.8), fourth in field goal shooting (.482), fifth in free throw shooting (.777) and seventh in scoring (14.0).

•Matt Howard has averaged 17.0 points over Butler's current four-game winning streak. He leads the Bulldogs in scoring in Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 14.2 average.