December 19, 2008

Bulldogs Host Non-League Foe Florida Gulf Coast

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RETURN GAME: Butler will end a week of final exams and return to the basketball court to host Florida Gulf Coast in a non-league game on Saturday, Dec. 20. The contest is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs (8-1) will be back in action for the first time since dropping their first game of the season, 54-51, at #21 Ohio State on Dec. 13. That setback snapped Butler's season-opening, eight-game winning streak and ended the Bulldogs' nine-game road winning streak, which dated back to last season. Butler and Ohio State both entered the contest with unbeaten records. Florida Gulf Coast (4-6) also has been idle since posting a 65-46 victory over Johnson & Wales on Dec. 14. The Eagles have won two straight games since dropping a decision at Florida on Dec. 10. Butler and Florida Gulf Coast will be meeting for the third straight year and for the second time in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Butler has not lost back-to-back games in the past 95 outings.

FAVORITE FIELDHOUSE: The Bulldogs are playing at home for the first time this month, ending a stretch of four consecutive road contests. Butler, 14-1 at home a year ago, boasts wins in 46 of its last 50 contests at the Fieldhouse, including 18 of its last 21 non-league tests. The Bulldogs are 114-15 (.884) at home since 1999-2000.

Butler is 49-4 in non-league games at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1999-00.

POLL WATCHING: Despite the loss at Ohio State, Butler continues to receive votes in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls. Butler was ranked in the "Top 25" of the two national polls for a school-record 19 consecutive weeks in 2007-08, including five weeks in the "Top 10."

Butler continues to be ranked fifth in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major "Top 25."

FAST STARTS: Butler's 8-0 start this season tied the fifth-best, season-opening run in Butler men's basketball history. Four teams in Butler history started the season with at least 10 wins, including the school-record 13-0 start by the 2001-02 squad.

LAST TIME OUT: Butler went toe-to-toe with nationally-ranked Ohio State on the Buckeyes' homecourt, but came up a three-point field goal shy of springing the upset. The Bulldogs battled back from a 13-point deficit in the second half and eventually tied the game at 51-51 on a three-point field goal by freshman Gordon Hayward with just under four minutes remaining. But those were Butler's last points in the game. The Bulldogs missed five three-point field goal attempts in the final three minutes, including one by Hayward as the final buzzer sounded. It was Butler's 12th straight loss on the Buckeyes' home floor.

Butler is 11-3 in its last 14 games against BCS conference teams.

YOUTH LEADER: Freshman Gordon Hayward, the second-youngest player on Butler's roster, put on a veteran performance at Ohio State. Playing against a nationally-ranked foe for the first time in his career, Hayward tallied a game-high 25 points, seven rebounds, two assists and one steal in 38 minutes of action. He hit eight of 15 shots against the Buckeyes, including a career-best seven of 11 from beyond the three-point arc! His 25 points were the most by a Butler player this season and the most by a Butler freshman since 2004, when A. J. Graves totaled 29 points against Ball State.

Gordon Hayward set a Butler freshman record with seven three-point field goals at Ohio State.

DOUBLE TAKE: Butler forward Matt Howard drew considerable attention from Ohio State's interior defenders, but the 6-8 sophomore still managed to record his first double-double of the season and the fifth of his career. Howard finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of play. The 10 rebounds were a season-high for the Butler rebounding leader. Howard has scored in double-figures in 31 of 43 games during his Butler career.

Matt Howard averages a team-best 13.0 points in Hinkle Fieldhouse this year.

LEAGUE HONOR: Butler's Gordon Hayward, who put together the first back-to-back 20-point scoring performances of his young career, was named Horizon League Men's Basketball Player of the Week for the period Dec. 8-14. Hayward shared team scoring honors with 20 points in Butler's victory at Bradley, and then he led all players with a career-high 25 points at nationally-ranked Ohio State. He added 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists over the two-game stretch, while shooting 58% (15 for 26) from the field. The 6-8 forward hit 12 of 20 (60%) three-point field goal attempts in the two games.

Gordon Hayward is second in the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.520).

HELPING HAND: Freshman Shelvin Mack posted a career-high seven assists at Ohio State, matching the Butler season-high set by teammate Ronald Nored at Bradley. It was the third consecutive game that the 6-3 guard set a career-best for assists. Mack also posted his third consecutive double-figures scoring performance with 13 points against the Buckeyes. The first-year Butler player ranks ninth in the Horizon League in both assists (3.2) and scoring (13.1). Over the past three games, he's averaged 18.3 points and 6.0 assists.

LONG DISTANCE OPERATORS: The Bulldogs, paced by freshman Gordon Hayward, hit eight three-point field goals at Ohio State, the most allowed by the Buckeyes this season. Hayward hit seven of the three-pointers, while freshman Shelvin Mack added the eighth. The Bulldogs have averaged 10 three-pointers over the past three games.

Eleven of Butler's 12 players have hit at least one three-pointer this season.

BOARDING PASS: The Bulldogs won the battle of the boards at Ohio State, out-rebounding the tall and rangy Buckeyes, 34-33. It was the sixth time in nine outings this season that the Bulldogs out-rebounded their opponent and the fourth time in the last five games. Butler currently ranks second in the Horizon League in rebounding margin (+1.9). A year ago, the Bulldogs finished ninth in the league in rebounding margin, and it's been nine years since Butler finished a season on the plus side of the rebounding ledger.

BIG TEN CHALLENGE: Butler is 8-6 against teams from the Big Ten since 2001, including a 1-1 ledger this season. The Bulldogs had five consecutive wins against Big Ten teams prior to last weekend.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.4), scoring defense (55.1), field goal percentage (.429), field goal percentage defense (.381) and three-point field goals (8.9).

•The Bulldogs are ranked 9th in the NCAA Division I in scoring defense.

•Sophomore Matt Howard was named Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Week for the week ending Dec. 7. An honor student, Howard helped lead Butler to back-to-back wins over Cleveland State and Youngstown State during the week.

•Butler's Gordon Hayward is the top scoring freshman in the Horizon League. He ranks eighth overall with a 13.3 average, just ahead of teammate Shelvin Mack (13.1).

•Freshman Shelvin Mack has connected on 16 consecutive free throws. Mack leads the Bulldogs and ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.857).

•Butler boasts three of the top seven players in the Horizon League in three-point field goals made. Gordon Hayward ranks third (2.6), while Shelvin Mack and sophomore Zach Hahn are tied for fifth (1.8).

•Gordon Hayward stands third in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.511). He ranks 13th in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goal percentage.

•Sophomore Matt Howard ranks third in the Horizon League in rebounding (6.8) and 10th in the league in scoring (12.7). He ranks third in the circuit in blocked shots (1.6) and fourth in offensive rebounds (3.0).

•Matt Howard is shooting a team-best .594 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. The 6-8 forward has connected on 19 of 32 shots in four games on Butler's home floor. He also leads the Bulldogs in assists at home with 10 in four outings.

•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.

•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.