January 15, 2008

Bulldogs Visit League-Leading Cleveland State

Jan. 15, 2008

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FIRST SHOT: Butler will have a chance to grab sole possession of first place in the Horizon League for the first time this season when it visits league-leading Cleveland State on Thursday, Jan. 17, to begin a brief two-game road trip. The Bulldogs will square off against the league pacesetter at the Wolstein Center on the Cleveland State campus at 7:30 p.m. (ET). Cleveland State, off to its best start in 15 years, leads Butler by one-half game in the league standings. The Vikings (12-5) won their fourth straight game and improved to 5-0 in Horizon League action for the first time ever with a 65-63 victory at Wright State last weekend. Butler climbed to 16-1 overall and 5-1 in league play with a 72-56 victory at home over Milwaukee. The Bulldogs will conclude their road trip at Youngstown State on Saturday, Jan. 19.

Butler trails only North Carolina (17) and Kansas (17) in victories this season.

POLL CLIMBING: Three wins in six days last week helped lift the Bulldogs to No. 12 in both the Associated Press and the ESPN/USA Today men's basketball polls this week. The jump was up two spots from a week ago in both polls and boosted Butler to its highest A. P. ranking since Feb. 5 of last year (No. 10) and its highest ESPN/USA Today ranking since Feb. 12 (No. 12). The Bulldogs have been ranked in the A.P. poll for 10 straight weeks and in both polls for nine consecutive weeks. Last year, Butler became the first team in Horizon League history to be ranked in the "Top 25" for more than five weeks.

Butler has been ranked in the Top 20 for 24 weeks since November of 2006.

ADDITIONAL POLLING: The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in The CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Cleveland State is ranked No. 21.

STRONG START: The Bulldogs have posted the best 17-game record in school history with their 16-1 start. Six previous Butler teams, including the 2001-02 and 2002-03 squads, recorded a 15-2 mark through 17 games.

CAREER MARK: First-year coach Brad Stevens owns the best coaching start (through 17 games) in Butler basketball history. Stevens' former boss, Todd Lickliter, began his collegiate coaching career with 15 wins in his first 17 games, while Paul D. "Tony" Hinkle and Harlan O. "Pat" Page both were 14-3 through their initial 17 contests.

WIN STREAK: Butler boasts an eight-game winning streak for the second time this season and for the fourth time since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. The eight-game streak is tied for the 12th-longest in Butler men's basketball history. Butler has a four-game Horizon League winning streak.

SWEEPS WEEK: Butler capped off a busy week of Horizon League action with its 16-point win over Milwaukee. The victory was Butler's third of the week and fourth in eight days. The Bulldogs jumped to a 9-2 lead less than six minutes into the contest and stretched that margin to double-figures 12 minutes into the game. Butler had a 37-19 advantage at halftime and led by as many as 21 points in the second half. A season-high ten different players contributed to Butler's final point total, and only one Bulldog, Mike Green (33), played more than 30 minutes in the game. Milwaukee had entered the contest with a six-game winning streak.

Butler has clinched its third straight winning season.

HIGH MARKS: The Bulldogs matched their season-high with 28 field goals against Milwaukee and set a new season-high with 62 field goal attempts against the Panthers. That came less than 48 hours after Butler recorded season-highs for free throws made (29) and attempted (41) against Green Bay. Butler also had a season-high 41 rebounds against Milwaukee, breaking the previous high of 38 set against Green Bay.

HANDLE WITH CARE: After starting the week with 14 turnovers in a victory at Loyola, the Bulldogs rebounded with a season-low five miscues in the victory over Milwaukee. It was the fourth time this season that the Bulldogs had fewer than 10 turnovers in a game.

Butler ranks third in the NCAA Division I in fewest turnovers (10.7) per game.

LEAGUE HONOR: Freshman Matt Howard led Butler in scoring in all three wins last week, and his effort earned him Horizon League Player of the Week honors. The 6-8 Butler post player averaged 19.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots for the week. He posted 19 points and five rebounds at Loyola, 22 points and nine rebounds against Green Bay and 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots against Milwaukee. He hit 17 of 26 (.654) shots from the floor and 24 of 31 (.774) from the free throw line in the three wins. It was the second time this season that Howard has been honored by the Horizon League.

Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in eight straight games.

BENCH PRESS: Forwards Willie Veasley and Pete Campbell turned in key performances in reserve roles in Butler's victories over Green Bay and Milwaukee. Veasley came off the bench with seven points and a career-high 11 rebounds in 24 minutes against Green Bay. The 6-3 Veasley had a career-best six offensive rebounds in the game. Campbell had 15 points in 20 minutes of reserve action against Milwaukee. It was his highest point total since Nov. 23.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring defense (57.8), scoring margin (+11.8), turnover margin (+3.71), fewest turnovers (10.7), and assist/turnover ratio (1.20). The Bulldogs rank second in three-point field goals (9.18).

•Senior guard A. J. Graves is ranked first in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (3.12). Graves is second on Butler's all-time list for three-point field goals with 261, 53 behind all-time leader and former teammate Bruce Horan (2002-06).

•A. J. Graves stands seventh on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,592 career points. He's the 39th player in Horizon League history to reach the 1,500-point plateau and the current active league-leader in career scoring.

•A. J. Graves posted his first two double-figures scoring performances in Horizon League play this season with 13 points against Green Bay and 11 points against Milwaukee. He has 88 twin-digit efforts in 113 career games.

•A. J. Graves has moved into ninth place on Butler's all-time assist chart. He has 276 career assists and trails Darren Fowlkes, 1985-89, in eighth place on the all-time list by just two assists.

•Mike Green leads the Bulldogs in scoring (15.4), rebounding (5.8) and assists (4.7).

•Mike Green ranks sixth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.4). He's scored 1,402 points during his collegiate career (641 at Towson and 761 at Butler).

•Mike Green stands second in the Horizon League in assists (4.71). He's third in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.95), 12th in rebounding (5.8), 13th in three-point field goal percentage (.422), and 14th in free throw shooting (.735). Green leads the league in free throws made (97).

•Pete Campbell is third in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (2.86), and he's tied for seventh in the league in three-point FG% (.444). He's hit at least one three-pointer in 17 consecutive games, dating back to last season.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (2.71) and in field goal percentage (.584). He's fourth in the league in blocked shots (1.18), and he stands eighth in the circuit in free throw shooting (.802).

•Matt Howard leads all freshmen in the Horizon League in scoring (13.1), rebounding (5.6), blocked shots (1.18), field goal shooting (.584) and free throw shooting (.802). He's the only player in the league, regardless of class, to rank in the "Top 15" in all five categories. •Willie Veasley led the Bulldogs in rebounding with a career-high 11 against Green Bay and seven against Milwaukee. It was the first time in his young career that he topped the Bulldogs on the boards in back-to-back games.

•Drew Streicher matched his career-high with four assists against Milwaukee.

•Julian Betko and Mike Green were in Butler's starting lineup for the 53rd consecutive game against Green Bay. A. J. Graves has 107 career starts.