December 29, 2008

#25 Bulldogs End Holiday Break Against UAB

Dec. 29, 2008

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HOLIDAY WRAPPING: One week after recording a victory over a nationally-ranked foe, Butler returns to the court against a second consecutive high-profile opponent on Tuesday, Dec. 30. The Bulldogs will end their holiday break against UAB in a non-league game scheduled for 7 p.m. (ET) in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler (10-1) has been idle since posting a 74-65 win at #14/12 Xavier on Tuesday, Dec. 23. The victory was Butler's first over a ranked opponent since March of 2007, when the Bulldogs defeated #18 Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. And it was the first on a ranked opponent's homecourt since December of 2001, when Butler defeated #21 Ball State. UAB (8-4), led by former Indiana head coach Mike Davis and featuring former Pike High School star Robert Vaden, is coming off an 82-62 setback at Louisville on Saturday (Dec. 27). The game with UAB will be Butler's final test before the Bulldogs return to Horizon League play at Valparaiso on Saturday, Jan. 3.

Butler is 10-1 for the third consecutive year.

BEST STARTS: The Bulldogs have tied the third best 11-game record in Butler basketball history. Butler's 1930-31 and 2001-02 teams both posted 11-0 starts for the best 11-game records. Seven other Butler teams started with 10 wins in the first 11 games.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: The Bulldogs are playing at home for just the second time this month. Butler, 14-1 at home a year ago, boasts wins in 47 of its last 51 contests at Hinkle Fieldhouse, including 19 of its last 22 non-league games. The Bulldogs have won nine straight games in the Fieldhouse and are 115-15 (.885) at home since 1999-00.

Butler is 50-4 in non-league games at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1999-00.

POLL POSITION: Butler has climbed into the "Top 25" of the Associated Press (A.P.) national poll for the third straight year. The Bulldogs are ranked 25th in this week's A.P. poll, while climbing to 28th in the ESPN/USA Today national poll. Butler was ranked in both polls for a school-record 19 consecutive weeks last year.

LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs became just the third team in Butler basketball history to defeat a nationally-ranked opponent on the road when they wrapped up their pre-Christmas victory at Xavier. Butler methodically built a 29-26 halftime lead over the #14/12 Musketeers and then held the advantage behind a strong performance at the free throw line in the second half. Sophomore Matt Howard completed a conventional three-point play at 17:35 of the second half to break a 32-32 tie and give Butler the lead for good. The Bulldogs scored their final 11 points from the free throw line, including 10 straight in the last 3:09. Butler's previous wins on the homecourt of a nationally-ranked opponent came at #10 Wisconsin, 58-44, in January of 2001 and at #21 Ball State, 75-66, in December of the same year.

Butler ended Xavier's 15-game homecourt winning streak.

DOUBLE VISION: Sophomore Matt Howard and freshman Gordon Hayward combined for a rare double "double-double" in Butler's victory at Xavier. Howard notched his second double-double of the season with 19 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, while Hayward recorded his first collegiate double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. The two 6-8 players accounted for more than half of Butler's points and more than 60% of the Bulldogs' rebounds! The last time Butler had two players record a double-double in the same game was in a double-overtime victory over Wright State, 88-78, in February of 1999. In that win, Butler forward Rylan Hainje posted 16 points and 10 rebounds, while forward Mike Marshall added 14 points and 11 rebounds.

BIG STAGE: Freshman Gordon Hayward faced a nationally-ranked opponent for the second time in his young career, and he responded with a second "career" performance. In addition to posting his first collegiate double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds), Hayward recorded a career-high four blocked shots and notched a career-best three steals in the win. He hit a career-best 10 of 10 shots from the free throw line, and he had no turnovers in a career-high 38 minutes. Earlier this season, Hayward scored a career-high 25 points against nationally-ranked Ohio State.

SHARP SHOOTER: Butler forward Willie Veasley, known more for his work around the basket, stepped out and nailed a career-best four of five shots from beyond the three-point arc at Xavier. He had half of Butler's three-point field goals in the win, while finishing with 12 points. Veasley, who hit five three-point field goals in Butler's first nine games this season, has connected on seven of 11 long-range shots in the Bulldogs' past two outings. He currently stands second on the team and third in the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.444).

Willie Veasley did not attempt a three-point field goal in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs.

SEASON OF CHARITY: The Bulldogs missed their first four free throw attempts at Xavier and had just one successful shot in their first six attempts from the charity stripe. It was hardly the start for a season-best performance, but that's exactly the way the Bulldogs finished. Butler hit 26 of 30 (.867) free throws in the final 20 minutes, including 15 of 16 (.938) in the final 5:15. The 26 free throws and the 33 attempts in the game were season-highs for the Bulldogs.

Butler is shooting .789 (90-114) from the free throw line over the last five games.

CARE PACKAGE: Butler had just 10 turnovers against Xavier's pressure defense, including just four in the final 20 minutes. It was the second straight game and the fifth time this season that the Bulldogs had 10 or fewer turnovers in a game. Butler leads the Horizon League and ranks in the "Top 25" in the NCAA Division I in fewest turnovers per game (11.6). The Bulldogs have ranked in the "Top Five" in the NCAA Division I in fewest turnovers in each of the seven previous seasons.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Freshman Ronald Nored posted his first collegiate double-figures scoring performance with 10 points at Xavier.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant came off the bench and led the Bulldogs with a career-high four steals in a career-best 23 minutes at Xavier. Butler had a season-high 11 steals in the win.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.8) and three-point field goals (8.9).

•Butler's Gordon Hayward is the top scoring freshman in the Horizon League. He ranks ninth overall with a 13.2 average, just ahead of teammate Shelvin Mack (11th, 12.5). Hayward also leads all freshmen in the league in rebounding (8th, 5.7).

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

•Gordon Hayward hit just one of four three-point field goal attempts at Xavier but he continues to lead the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.462).

•Gordon Hayward is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank in the "Top 10" in the league scoring, rebounding, field goal shooting, three-point field goal shooting, free throw shooting, three-point field goals, steals and blocked shots!

•Freshman Shelvin Mack has connected on 19 consecutive free throws. Mack leads the Bulldogs and ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.871).

•Shelvin Mack, who had three assists and just one turnover in Butler's win at Xavier, ranks second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.0).

•Sophomore Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (3.5) and blocked shots (1.5). He stands third in rebounding (7.5), seventh in scoring (13.4) and 10th in free throw shooting percentage (.767).

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

•Butler's 10 Division I opponents this season boast a combined record of 72-41, with nine of the losses coming to the Bulldogs.