February 1, 2009

Butler Begins Three-Game Road Stretch At Green Bay

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TRAVELING CALL: Butler will begin a stretch of three games in three different states over a six-day period when it visits Green Bay for a key Horizon League test on Monday, Feb. 2. The game between the league's top two teams is slated for 7 p.m. (CT) in the Resch Center in Green Bay, Wis., and will be televised in Indianapolis on WHMB-TV (Ch. 40). Butler (19-1) maintained its Horizon League lead with a 59-51 victory at home over Valparaiso on Friday (Jan. 30). The win was Butler's 11th straight and boosted the Bulldogs to 10-0 in league play for the first time in school history. The 11 consecutive wins are the third-longest active winning streak in the NCAA Division I, behind Utah State (16) and Memphis (12). Green Bay (17-6, 9-2 HL) swept home games from UIC, 83-72, and Loyola, 55-43, last weekend to keep its hold on second place in the league standings. The Phoenix improved to 10-1 in the Resch Center this year. Butler's current road trip will continue with games at Detroit on Feb. 5 and at Wright State on Feb. 7.

The Bulldogs have tied the fourth-longest winning steak in school history.

TOP DOGS: The Bulldogs, at 19-1, own the best 20-game record and the best start in Butler basketball history. Butler's 2006-07 and 2007-08 teams both were 18-2 through 19 games.

POLL WATCH: Butler climbed to No. 13 in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls on Jan. 26, and the Bulldogs should remain in the "Top 20" for the fourth consecutive week when the new polls are released on Feb. 2. Butler was ranked in both polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year.

ROAD WORK: Butler leads the Horizon League in road victories with eight. The Bulldogs are 8-1 on opponents' courts this season, after posting an 11-2 record in away games a year ago. Butler has the most Division I road wins of any team ranked in the "Top 25" of the two major national polls.

LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs made seven free throws in the final 66 seconds to secure an eight-point win over Valparaiso at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday (Jan. 30). Butler jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the nationally-televised game, but the Crusaders battled back and cut the margin to 24-22 at halftime. The visitors answered a couple of additional Butler runs in the second half and trailed by just two, 52-50, with 1:06 remaining. But freshman Ronald Nored hit a pair of free throws to give Butler a 54-50 advantage and start a closing 7-1 run for the Bulldogs. Freshman Shelvin Mack hit three free throws and sophomore Zach Hahn added two more in the final minute to stretch Butler's final margin.

Butler has 19 wins for the 12th time in 14 years and for the 19th time overall.

FRESH LEADER: Freshman Gordon Hayward topped the Bulldogs with a game-high 18 points against Valparaiso. He hit six of 10 shots in the game, including two of six from beyond the three-point arc, and all four of the free throws that he attempted. The 6-8 forward added three rebounds, three assists, one blocked shot and two steals in the victory. It was the second time in four games and the fifth time this season that Hayward has led the Bulldogs in scoring.

Gordon Hayward leads the Bulldogs in scoring on the road this season with a 15.7 average.

BOARDING PASS: Despite being limited to just 26 minutes by foul problems, Butler sophomore Matt Howard still wound up leading all players with 11 rebounds against Valparaiso. It was the third straight game that he topped the Bulldogs in rebounding and the fifth time in six games. The 6-8 forward has averaged 8.4 rebound over Butler's last five games.

IT TAKES A THIEF: Butler offset 18 turnovers against Valparaiso with a season-high 13 steals. Sophomores Zach Hahn and Matt Howard led the way with career-highs of three steals, while freshmen Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored chipped in with two apiece. Butler had eight steals in the first half and added five more in the final period. The 13 steals were the most by a Butler team since 2002-03, when the Bulldogs recorded 13 against Evansville.

GUARD `DOGS: Butler held the Crusaders to 28% shooting (7-25) in the first half and 36.2% shooting (17-47) for the game. It was the seventh time in the past eight games that Butler held its opponent below 40% shooting. It also was the seventh consecutive game that the Bulldogs held their opponent below 60 points. Butler has kept 15 foes below 60 points this season.

Butler ranks third in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (55.3).

EARLY PRODUCTION: Butler's duo of Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack have been steadily climbing the Bulldogs' all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward currently stands 12th on the list with 260 points, while Mack is 13th with 256 tallies. Rylan Hainje (1998-99) is No. 11 on the list with 261 points, while Jeff Williams (1972-73) holds the No. 10 position with 278 points. Butler's freshman scoring record is 476 points by Tony Warren in 1979-80. Hayward and Mack are the top-scoring freshmen in the Horizon League. Hayward ranks seventh overall with a 13.0 average, while Mack stands eighth with a 12.8 mark.

SUCCESSFUL MONTH: Butler was unbeaten in the month of January for the first time in a decade. The Bulldogs, who opened and closed last month with victories over Valparaiso, ran off eight consecutive Horizon League wins during the first month of 2009. It was Butler's best January performance since 1998-99, when the Bulldogs compiled a 10-0 mark. Butler also recorded an unbeaten record in November (5-0), while finishing 6-1 in December.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler has maintained the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for the three consecutive weeks and will likely hold that position when the new poll is released on Monday (Feb. 2) evening.

•Butler has won 21 consecutive Horizon League regular season games, matching the league record set by Green Bay from 1994 to 1997. The Bulldogs' last Horizon League setback came at Cleveland State on Jan. 17, 2008.

•The Bulldogs have won 10 consecutive Horizon League road games, dating back to last season.

•Sophomore Matt Howard hit just three of eight shots against Valparaiso, but he's still shooting .630 (34-54) over Butler's last nine games. Howard leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.510).

•Freshman Gordon Hayward continues to lead the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.454). Hayward hit two of five three-point field goal attempts against Green Bay in the first meeting this season.

•Gordon Hayward is shooting .488 from the field, .526 from the three-point arc and .818 from the free throw stripe over Butler's nine road contests this season.

•Junior Willie Veasley has averaged 10.5 points during Butler's 11-game winning streak. Half of his 14 career double-figures scoring performances have come in the past 11 games. Veasley is shooting .528 from the field during the streak.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.8), field goal percentage defense (.376), three-point field goal percentage defense (.302), rebounding margin (+2.6), fewest turnovers (12.1) and three-point field goals (9.0). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (55.3), field goal percentage (.425), three-point field goal percentage (.370) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1).

•In league games only, Butler ranks among the top three teams in the circuit in 15 of 19 categories. The Bulldogs are among the top four teams in all but two categories.

•The Bulldogs feature three of the top eight free throw shooters in the Horizon League. Gordon Hayward ranks third in the league (.784), Shelvin Mack stands fifth (.770) and Matt Howard is eighth (.764).

•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack are ranked in the top five in the Horizon League in three-point field goals. Hayward is fourth with 44 three-pointers, while Mack is fifth with 43. Sophomore Zach Hahn stands 10th in the league (26).

•Shelvin Mack is second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.9) and fourth in the league in assists (3.8). Mack matched his career-high with eight assists against Green Bay 12 days ago.

•Gordon Hayward is the only player in the Horizon League who ranks in the "Top 10" in the circuit in nine different categories! He's sixth in scoring (13.0), fifth in rebounding (6.3), seventh in field goal shooting (.476), first in three-point field goal shooting (.454), third in free throw shooting (.784), fourth in three-point field goals (2.2), fifth in steals (1.9), tied for sixth in blocked shots (1.0) and fourth in defensive rebounds (4.9).