January 16, 2009

#17/18 Butler Visits UIC For Nationally-Televised Test

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CHICAGO CHALLENGE: Butler will try to match its best Horizon League start ever and extend the league's longest current winning streak when if visits UIC on Saturday, Jan. 17, for a game that will be nationally televised on ESPN2. The game at the UIC Pavilion is scheduled for a 1 p.m. (CT, 2 p.m. in Indianapolis) start. The nationally-ranked Bulldogs, coming off a 78-55 victory at Loyola, are looking to improve to 7-0 in Horizon League action for the first time since 1990-91. Butler has won 15 of 16 games overall and owns a league-best, seven-game winning streak. UIC picked up its fifth win at home and its ninth victory overall with a 77-52 decision over Valparaiso on Thursday (Jan. 15). It was the fifth time this season that the Flames have scored at least 75 points in a game. Saturday's game at the Pavilion matches the Horizon League's top scoring offense against the league's top scoring defense. UIC is averaging a league-best 70.2 points per outing, while the Bulldogs are surrendering 56.1 points.

ROAD WORK: Butler leads the Horizon League in road victories with a 7-1 record, including a 4-0 mark in league play. The Bulldogs, who have won three straight on the road, share the Division I lead in road wins.

Butler is 18-3 in road games under head coach Brad Stevens.

BEST STARTS: The Bulldogs have tied the best 16-game record in Butler basketball history. Butler's 2002-03 and 2007-08 teams also recorded 15-1 records. Last year's Bulldogs are the only Butler team to post a 16-1 record.

POLL CLIMBING: Butler has moved into the "Top 20" of both major national polls for the first time this season. The Bulldogs climbed from No. 21 to No. 17 in this week's Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and from No. 20 to No. 18 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.

Butler was ranked No. 8 when it faced UIC at the Pavilion last year.

LAST TIME OUT: The sub-zero temperatures outside of the Joseph J. Gentile Center didn't impact the red-hot start Butler unleashed in its 78-55 victory at Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 15). The Bulldogs hit seven consecutive field goals during a 22-0 run in a six and a half minute stretch in the first and never looked back. Butler led 24-4 midway through the first half and 39-24 at halftime. The Bulldogs then opened the second half with a 12-0 run and the margin never fell below 20 points for the rest of the contest. All 12 Butler players saw action in the game, and nine of the Bulldogs cracked the scoring column. The 78 points were the most scored by a Butler team in the Gentile Center, and the 23-point loss was Loyola's worst at home since a December 2000 loss to No. 2 Michigan State, 103-71.

The 23-point win at Loyola was Butler's biggest margin of victory against a Division I foe this season.

TOP DOG: Sophomore Matt Howard recorded his third double-double of the season in just 24 minutes of action at Loyola. The 6-8 forward hit seven of nine shots from the field and all four of his free throw attempts, while scoring 18 points, and he added a game-high 11 rebounds. He also led the Bulldogs with three blocked shots in the game. Howard has scored in double-figures in Butler's last eight outings. He's topped the Bulldogs in scoring in five of the past seven games and in rebounding in five of the last eight contests.

Matt Howard has averaged 16.4 points over Butler's seven-game win streak.

FRESH LOOK: Butler's three freshmen starters each turned in a solid performance at Loyola. Guard Shelvin Mack led all scorers in the game with 20 points, including 13 in the first half. He hit three three-point field goals in just over a minute of the first half to help fuel Butler's early 22-0 scoring run. Forward Gordon Hayward chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds, while guard Ronald Nored added a game-high six assists.

ROAD WARRIOR: Freshman Gordon Hayward has led the Bulldogs in scoring away from Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. Hayward, who has scored in double-figures in six of Butler's eight road contests, has averaged 14.5 points away from Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. He had a career-high 25 points in Butler's game at Ohio State, and he scored 20 points in the Bulldogs' victory at Bradley. Hayward also has averaged 8.3 rebounds in the Bulldogs' eight road contests.

LONG DISTANCE OPERATORS: The Bulldogs connected on 11 of 22 free throw attempts in their victory at Loyola. It was Butler's highest total for three-pointers in Horizon League action this season and the third-highest total this season. The Bulldogs had a season-high 13 three-point field goals in a victory at Bradley and 12 three-pointers against Florida Gulf Coast. Butler has had at least 10 three-point field goals in six games this season.

Butler is 9-0 this season when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.

SAMARATIN'S FEET: Butler head coach Brad Stevens will be coaching shoeless at UIC in support of Samaratin's Feet, a North Carolina-based non-profit organization that distributes shoes to needy children around the world. IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter called attention to Samaratin's Feet by coaching shoeless for one game last season, and his effort resulted in more than 140,000 pairs of shoes being collected.

MID-SEASON HONOR: Butler coach Brad Stevens, who's guided the Bulldogs to a 15-1 start, has been named the mid-season recipient of the Hugh Durham Award, presented by CollegeInsider.com. The award is given annually to the nation's top mid-major coach. Former Butler coach Todd Lickliter received the mid-season honor in 2006-07. The final recipient will be named at the Final Four in Detroit.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is ranked first in this week's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Saint Mary's (15-1) is ranked second in the mid-major poll, while Gonzaga (10-4) is ranked third.

•The Bulldogs are ninth in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI). The Bulldogs began the week with the fifth-best RPI in the nation.

•Butler has won 17 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 have won nine consecutive Horizon League road contests.

•The Bulldogs, who have held three straight opponents to 55 points or less, are ranked second in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (56.1). Washington State (51.8) is the national leader.

•Butler limited Loyola's five starters to just nine points. Loyola's scoring leader, J. R. Blount, had just two points and did not have a field goal in the game.

•Junior Avery Jukes came off the bench and scored 10 points in Butler's victory over Loyola. He's scored 18 points in Butler's past two games.

•Sophomore Matt Howard has connected on 24 of 32 (.750) field goal attempts in Butler's last five games. Howard leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.519).

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant had a career-high four assists at Loyola.

•Freshman Shelvin Mack matched his career-high with three steals at Loyola.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.6), scoring defense (56.1), field goal shooting (.432), rebounding margin (+3.1), fewest turnovers (11.9) and three-point field goals (8.6). The Bulldogs are second in the league in three-point field goal percentage (.378), three-point field goal percentage defense (.302), field goal percentage defense (.384) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2).

•Butler's duo of Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward are the top scoring freshmen in the Horizon League. Mack ranks eighth overall with a 12.8 average, while Hayward is tied for ninth (12.3).

•The Bulldogs feature three of the top nine free throw shooters in the Horizon League. Shelvin Mack ranks third in the league (.804), Matt Howard is tied for sixth (.783) and Gordon Hayward is ninth (.767).

•Butler boasts three of the top five players in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting. Gordon Hayward (.464) leads the league, while Zach Hahn (.389) is fourth. Shelvin Mack stands fifth (.386).

•Gordon Hayward is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank in the "Top 10" in the league in scoring (9th-tie, 12.3), rebounding (5th, 6.6), field goal shooting (6th, .472), three-point field goal shooting (1st, .464), free throw shooting (9th, .768), three-point field goals (5th, 2.0), steals (7th, 1.7) and blocked shots (8th, 0.9)!

•Freshman Shelvin Mack stands second in the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.0).