December 22, 2008

Bulldogs Close Pre-Christmas Slate At #12 Xavier

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HOLIDAY TRAVEL: For the second time in ten days, Butler will visit Ohio to face a nationally-ranked opponent. The Bulldogs will wrap their pre-Christmas schedule against #12 Xavier in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Tuesday, Dec. 23. The game at the Cintas Center on the Xavier campus is slated for 7 p.m. (ET), and will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Butler (9-1) is coming off a 73-53 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Saturday (Dec. 20). That win came seven days after the Bulldogs suffered their first setback of the season, a 54-51 loss at then #21 Ohio State. Xavier (9-1) fell to #6 Duke, 82-64, in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, ending the Musketeers' season-opening nine-game winning streak. Butler and Xavier are meeting for the first time since 1998.

Butler's last win over a nationally-ranked foe was a 62-59 victory over #18 Maryland in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

POLL WATCHING: For the third consecutive week, Butler is receiving 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.

COACHING CONNECTION: Former Xavier and Butler coach Thad Matta gave Brad Stevens his start toward collegiate coaching. Stevens was working as a marketing associate for Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis when Matta hired him to serve as Butler's Director of Basketball Operations in 2000-01. The following year, Matta left for Xavier and Stevens became an assistant coach under Todd Lickliter (now at the University of Iowa). Stevens was named Butler's head coach in April of 2007.

LAST TIME OUT: Butler ended a week off for final exams with a convincing 20-point victory over visiting Florida Gulf Coast. The Bulldogs scored the first eight points of the game and sprinted to a 19-6 lead less than seven minutes into the contest. The visiting Eagles never recovered. Butler led by 17 points at halftime, 43-26, and stretched the margin to as many as 24 points in the second half. The final margin of victory was Butler's largest against a Division I foe this season.

Butler improved to 50-4 in non-league games at home since 1999-00.

FAMILIAR LEADER: Sophomore Matt Howard led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fourth time this season and for the 14th time in his young career with 14 points against Florida Gulf Coast. The 6-8 forward also topped Butler in rebounds for the seventh time this season with a game-high eight caroms. Howard hit three of seven field goal attempts and eight of 10 free throws, while playing just 24 minutes.

Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in 32 of 44 career games.

CAREER BEST: Butler forward Willie Veasley matched his career scoring high with 13 points in 25 minutes against Florida Gulf Coast. The 6-3 junior hit five of nine shots in the game, including a career-high three of six attempts from beyond the three-point arc. He scored 13 points for the first time two games earlier in Butler's victory at Bradley. Veasley, who did not attempt a three-point field goal in his first two seasons at Butler has hit seven long-range shots in the Bulldogs' last five games.

LOOKING LONG: Despite getting no three-point field goals from long-range leaders Gordon Hayward and Zach Hahn, the Bulldogs still managed to connect on 12 three-pointers against Florida Gulf Coast. Hayward, who leads the team in three-point field goals, was 0-3 from beyond the three-point arc, while Hahn, who was tied for second on the team in long-range shots, didn't play because of illness. Seven other Butler players stepped in to pick up the slack and help the Bulldogs record their second-highest total for three-point field goals this season. Junior Willie Veasley and freshman Shelvin Mack each nailed three long-range shots, while sophomore Grant Leiendecker added two. Also nailing a shot from beyond the arc were junior Avery Jukes, sophomore Shawn Vanzant and freshmen Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher.

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

HELPLINE: Freshman Shelvin Mack recorded a career-high eight assists against Florida Gulf Coast. It was the fourth consecutive game that the 6-3 guard set a career-best for assists. Mack also posted his fourth consecutive double-figures scoring performance with 12 points against the Eagles. The first-year Butler player ranks fifth in the Horizon League in assists (3.2) and eighth in scoring (13.0).

Over the past four games, Shelvin Mack has averaged 16.8 points and 6.5 assists.

HANDLE WITH CARE: After committing a season-high 19 turnovers in the loss at Ohio State, the Bulldogs bounced back with a more Butler-like performance against Florida Gulf Coast. The Bulldogs had just seven miscues in the game, including just one in the first 20 minutes. Butler leads the Horizon League and ranks 21st in the NCAA Division I in fewest turnovers per game (11.8). The Bulldogs ranked in the "Top Five" in the NCAA Division I in fewest turnovers in each of the seven previous seasons.

LEAGUE LEADER: Freshman Gordon Hayward is leading the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.479). The 6-8 forward has connected on a team-high 23 of 48 attempts from beyond the three-point arc. Hayward is shooting .567 (17-30) from three-point range in games played away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Gordon Hayward is tied for second in the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.500, 40-80).

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+13.2), scoring defense (54.9), field goal percentage (.427), field goal percentage defense (.379), assist/turnover ratio (1.2) and three-point field goals (9.0).

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

•Butler's Shelvin Mack is the top scoring freshman in the Horizon League. He ranks eighth overall with a 13.0 average, just ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward (12.8).

•Freshman Shelvin Mack has connected on 17 consecutive free throws. Mack leads the Bulldogs and ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.862).

•Butler boasts three of the top six players in the Horizon League in three-point field goals made. Gordon Hayward ranks third (2.3), Shelvin Mack is fifth (1.9) and sophomore Zach Hahn is sixth (1.8).

•Sophomore Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (3.0), third in rebounding (6.9), third-tie in blocked shots (1.4), seventh in field goal shooting (.471), eighth in free throw shooting (.783) and ninth in scoring (12.8).

•Freshman Ronald Nored recorded a career-high with four steals against Florida Gulf Coast. Nored is second on the team in steals with 13.

•Sophomore Grant Leiendecker came off the bench to hit a pair of three-point field goals against Florida Gulf Coast and match his career scoring high with six points.

•Sophomore Zach Hahn missed the Florida Gulf Coast game because of illness, ending a streak of 43 consecutive games played. He's probable for the Xavier game.

•Butler had 19 assists on 23 field goals against Florida Gulf Coast.

•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.