November 22, 2007

Bulldogs Advance To Great Alaska Shootout Semifinals

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TOURNAMENT ADVANCE: Butler passed its first test in its first appearance in the Great Alaska Shootout, and the Bulldogs have advanced to the semifinals of the holiday tournament. Next up is a first-ever contest against Virginia Tech on Friday, Nov. 23. The semifinal contest is slated for 5:30 p.m. (Alaska, 9:30 p.m. in Indianapolis) and will be broadcast on the internet on ESPN360. Butler opened tournament play with a convincing 79-65 victory over Big Ten opponent Michigan. It was Butler's fourth straight victory to open the 2007-08 season, and the Bulldogs' seventh straight in-season tournament win. It was also Butler's first win over Michigan in 42 years! The last time Butler had beaten the Wolverines was in December of 1965 when Michigan was ranked #3 in the nation and featured All-American guard Cazzie Russell. The win snapped Butler's six-game losing streak to the Wolverines. The winners of Friday's semifinal games will meet for the 30th Great Alaska Shootout championship on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 8:30 p.m. (Alaska, 12:30 p.m. in Indianapolis).

Butler is now 4-0 all-time in Alaska.

POLL WATCH: The Bulldogs are ranked in the "Top 25" of both major polls (A.P. & ESPN/USA Today) for the first time since last year's record-breaking season. Butler climbed to No. 22 in this week's A.P. poll (Nov. 19), up three spots from last week's rankings, and the Bulldogs have climbed into the ESPN/USA Today poll at No. 23. A year ago, the Bulldogs were ranked in the "Top 25" for a school- and league-record 16 consecutive weeks, including a first-ever "Top 10" ranking on Feb. 5.

The Bulldogs are ranked in the "Top 25" of both major polls earlier than any other team in Butler basketball history.

ALASKAN RUSH: The Bulldogs opened play in the Great Alaska Shootout with a 79-65 victory over Michigan. Butler never trailed in the game and the contest was tied just twice, but it took a strong second half surge to seal the victory. Michigan battled back from a 17-point first half deficit and cut Butler's lead to one, 40-39, just over a minute into the second half. The lead was three points, 51-48, with 14:44 left, when the Bulldogs unleashed a 21-2 scoring run to open a 22-point lead and settle the issue. Senior A. J. Graves sparked the scoring run with nine points, while Mike Green added six. The 22-point lead was Butler's biggest in the game.

The Bulldogs have beaten the last three Big Ten teams they've faced.

LAND OF THE THREE: Butler turned to a familiar weapon to pull away from Michigan in the first round of the Great Alaska Shootout. The Bulldogs set a tournament single game record by hitting 17 three-point field goals against the Wolverines. The 17 threes broke the previous mark of 16, set by Indiana in 2001. The Bulldogs hit eight three-pointers in the first half and added nine more in the second half, including seven straight during the decisive run, to seal the win. Butler is averaging 11.8 three-point field goals per game through the first four outings this season.

Butler set a school record by hitting 321 three-point field goals in 2006-07.

GAME HONOR: Senior Mike Green was named Carrs/Safeway Player of the Game for his performance in Butler's victory over Michigan. The 6-1 senior turned in yet another strong all-around performance, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, a season-high eight assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes of action. He hit back-to-back three-point field goals to help spark Butler's decisive 21-2 second half scoring run.

Mike Green matched the third-highest single game assist total (8) of his Butler career against Michigan.

DOUBLE TAKE: Freshman Matt Howard came off the bench against Michigan to post Butler's first double-double of the season. He scored 12 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 29 minutes of action. The 12 rebounds were the most by a Butler player in the past 26 games, matching the total Mike Green had against UW-Milwaukee on Dec. 30, 2006. Howard led the Bulldogs in rebounding for the second straight game.

BACKCOURT STRENGTH: Butler's backcourt of seniors A. J. Graves and Mike Green was rated as the 14th-best backcourt in the NCAA Division I this season by Luke Winn of SI.com. Graves led the Bulldogs in scoring last year with a 16.9 average, while Green topped the team in rebounds (6.0) and assists (4.0), while finishing second in scoring (13.9). Graves was a first team All-League pick last season, while Green was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and second-team All-League.

ALL-AMERICA: Senior guard A. J. Graves was named to the 25-player, 2007-08 Preseason Mid-Major All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. He previously was named to the 2006-07 CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major All-America Team at the end of last season.

SOLID START: Brad Stevens became the second consecutive Butler coach to begin his coaching career with four straight victories. Current Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter started his career with four straight wins, including three in Alaska at the Top of the World Classic, in 2001-02. Lickliter went on to win his first 13 games as a head coach. Stevens served as an assistant coach under Lickliter for six years.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens has named all five seniors, Julian Betko, Drew Streicher, A. J. Graves, Mike Green and Pete Campbell, as his team captains for 2007-08.

•Julian Betko and Mike Green were in Butler's starting lineup for the 40th consecutive game against Michigan. A. J. Graves made his 94th career start for the Bulldogs, Drew Streicher made his seventh career start and Pete Campbell made his fourth Butler start.

•A. J. Graves hit five three-point field goals against Michigan, boosting his career total to 227. He stands second on Butler's all-time list for three-pointers, 87 behind all-time leader and former teammate Bruce Horan (2002-06).

•A. J. Graves, who scored 17 points in Butler's victory over Michigan, stands in 11th place on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,420 career points. He needs 19 points to crack Butler's all-time "Top 10."

•A. J. Graves has scored in double-figures in 12 straight games, dating back to last season. He has scored in double-figures in 79 of 100 games during his Butler career.

•A. J. Graves has hit 16 of 29 (.552) attempts from beyond the three-point arc in Butler's last three games. He's shooting .543 from three-point range on the season.

•Butler had a season-high 19 assists on 25 field goals against Michigan.

•Forward Pete Campbell led Butler in scoring against Michigan with 18 points in 21 minutes. It was the seventh time that he's topped the Bulldogs in scoring.

•Pete Campbell hit six three-point field goals against Michigan, the second-highest total of his Butler career. He needs four three-point field goals to reach 100 for his Butler career.

•Senior Julian Betko scored a season-high eight points against Michigan. It was his highest point total since January 6, when he scored eight points in a win over Wright State.

•Sophomore Willie Veasley sat out Butler's first four games because of injury, but he may be available for limited duty this week. Veasley played in 35 games last season.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens added walk-on Alex Anglin to this year's roster. A 6-4 sophomore, Anglin was an all-area performer at Kokomo High School. He's one of three walk-ons on Butler's roster, joining junior Ben Slaton, who earned a spot in 2005-06, and sophomore Nick Rodgers, who earned a spot last year.

•Head coach Brad Stevens celebrated the first day of the NCAA fall signing period by landing three talented Indiana high school players. The Bulldogs received signed commitments from 6-7 Garrett Butcher of Edgewood High School, 6-3 Chase Stigall of New Castle Chrysler High School and 6-7 Gordon Hayward of Brownsburg High School. A year ago, Butler added Matt Howard, Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant on the first day of the fall signing period.