Butler Visits Horizon League Favorite Cleveland State

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LEAGUE OPENER: Butler will begin Horizon League play this season against the same team it faced in its final league test a year ago. The Bulldogs will visit preseason league favorite Cleveland State for a game that will be nationally-televised on ESPNU on Thursday, Dec. 4. The contest is scheduled for 8 p.m. (ET) at the Wolstein Center on the Cleveland State campus. Butler squared off with Cleveland State in the championship game of the 2008 Horizon League Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse last March, and the Bulldogs came away with a 70-55 victory and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. That was last year. This season, with four starters returning from a 21-13 club that advanced to the NIT, Cleveland State has been tabbed as the team to beat. The Vikings received 40 of 49 first place votes in the Horizon League preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and media, while Butler was picked fifth. Cleveland State handed the Bulldogs one of just four losses a year ago with a 56-52 decision at the Wolstein Center.

Butler's last Horizon League loss came at Cleveland State last January.

ROUGH ROAD: Butler's game at Cleveland State will begin a four-game road stretch for head coach Brad Stevens' squad. The Bulldogs will visit Youngstown State (Dec. 6), Missouri Valley Conference foe Bradley (Dec. 10) and Big Ten opponent Ohio State (Dec. 13) during the stretch. Butler also has a game at Atlantic 10 power Xavier on Dec. 23. The Bulldogs will play only two games at home in the next 35 days.

Butler will play six of its next eight games against teams that advanced to postseason play last year.

LEAGUE RUN: Butler has posted a 29-5 record in Horizon League play over the past two seasons, including a league-record 16 wins last year. During that two-year run, the Bulldogs captured two league regular season championships and one league tournament crown. Butler is the all-time leader in Horizon League victories with 231.

LAST TIME OUT: Butler improved to 5-0 with a 75-59 victory at home over state foe Evansville on Saturday (Nov. 29). The Bulldogs battled to a 35-30 halftime lead and then pulled away by out-scoring visiting and previously unbeaten Evansville by 11 points in the final 20 minutes. Butler hit 17 of 31 shots (.548) in the second half and limited the Aces to 41% shooting and 29 points. The Bulldogs surrendered just nine points in the first nine minutes of the final period, while stretching the lead to 52-39. Head coach Brad Stevens called it Butler's best half of basketball this season.

Butler is the lone remaining unbeaten Division I team in Indiana.

AUTUMN BLISS: Butler completed November with an unbeaten record for the third straight year. The Bulldogs have won 20 consecutive games in November, dating back to 2005. Butler's last November loss came at Big Ten foe Michigan, 78-74, on Nov. 26, 2005.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Bulldogs have held each of their first five opponents this season under 60 points for the game. Butler limited Northwestern to a season-low 53 points and held Evansville to a season-low 59 points in back-to-back games last week. The Bulldogs have led the Horizon League in team scoring defense for three straight years.

FRESH SPARK: Freshman Shelvin Mack scored a game-high 18 points, including 13 in the second half, to lead Butler past Evansville. He ignited Butler's initial second half surge by scoring nine of his team's first 14 points after intermission, helping the Bulldogs stretch the margin to double-digits. He wound up hitting six of seven shots in the final 20 minutes and a career-high eight of 11 for the game. It was the second double-figures scoring performance of his young collegiate career, one point shy of his career high set against IU-South Bend.

MULTI-TASKING: Sophomore Matt Howard scored in double-figures in each of Butler's back-to-back wins over Northwestern and Evansville, but it wasn't just his scoring that impacted the outcomes. Howard matched his career-high with three steals against Northwestern, including two key thefts in Butler's second half comeback. The 6-8 forward then matched his career-high with four blocked shots in the Bulldogs' victory over Evansville. Howard had 17 points and six rebounds against Northwestern and 11 points, five rebounds and two assists against Evansville. He also nailed his first career three-point field goal against the Aces.

Matt Howard ranks among the Horizon League leaders in scoring, rebounding, field goal shooting and blocked shots.

THREE FOR ALL: Earlier this fall, a local newspaper wanted to stage a picture of the three-point field goal shooters who would replace graduated Butler marksmen A. J. Graves and Pete Campbell. Head coach Brad Stevens suggested lining up the entire Butler squad at the three-point line for the picture, sparking a few raised eyebrows (and mild dissent)! Five games into the season, 11 of the 12 active players on Butler's roster have hit at least one three-point field goal for the Bulldogs. Butler is averaging 8.2 three-pointers per game, just slightly less than last year's 9.38 league-leading total.

ARC ATTACK: After hitting a season-low four three-point field goals and shooting a season-worst 20% (4-20) from outside the three-point line in their win over Northwestern, the Bulldogs rebounded with a season-best 47% (9-19) from beyond the three-point arc against Evansville. The nine three-pointers against the Aces matched Butler's second-highest single game total this season.

SWAT TEAM: Butler had a season-high eight blocked shots in the victory over Evansville. It was the most blocks by a Butler team since February of 2001, when the Bulldogs recorded eight blocked shots against Milwaukee. Butler's school record for blocked shots is 12 against Anderson in December of 1996.

STEPPING UP: Butler improved to 11-2 in its last 13 games against schools from the BCS conferences last week. The two losses were to Tennessee in overtime in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament and national champ Florida in the 2007 national tournament. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have wins over Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Dame, Maryland, Florida State, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler has started with a 5-0 record for the third straight year. The Bulldogs won ten straight games to open the 2006-07 season and eight straight a year ago.

•Sophomore Zach Hahn came off the bench and nailed a career-high four three-point field goals in Butler's victory over Evansville. Hahn hit three of five three-point attempts in the second half.

•Freshman Gordon Hayward scored 13 points in Butler's victory over Northwestern and 12 points in the Bulldogs' win over Evansville. He's scored in double-figures in three straight contests and in four of his first five collegiate games.

•Junior Willie Veasley was cited by coach Brad Stevens for his defensive work in the Butler's two wins last week. He helped limit Northwestern scoring leader Kevin Coble to three points in 38 minutes and then harassed Evansville ace Shy Ely into five of 11 shooting and 12 points.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+18.6), scoring defense (49.6), field goal percentage (.446), field goal percentage defense (.372), turnover margin (+7.0), assist/turnover radio (1.2) and three-point field goals (8.2).

•Butler is ranked No. 1 in this week's RPI, published by RealTimeRPI.com. The Bulldogs have a strength of schedule rank of No. 1. Butler is 25th in this week's Sagarin College Basketball rankings.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens announced that freshmen Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen will redshirt this season. Stigall is a 6-3 guard from New Castle Chrysler High School, while Kampen is a 6-9 forward from Yorktown High School.

•Last season, Butler coach Brad Stevens became the third-youngest NCAA Division I coach to guide his team to 30 wins, and the youngest in more than half a century! The 32-year-old Stevens is one of just 11 Division I coaches to have recorded a 30-win season before age 40.

•Butler had the most wins of any Division I team in Indiana for the third straight year last season.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens used the first day of the NCAA Fall Signing Period to land local recruit Andrew Smith of Covenant Christian High School. The 6-10 center averaged 14.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots, while shooting 63% from the field last year. He helped lead Covenant Christian to a 15-7 record.