Bulldogs Take On Detroit In League Semifinal
2009-10 Butler Women’s Basketball
No. 2 Butler (22-8) vs. No. 3 Detroit (17-13)
Friday, March 12, 2010 – 6:30 p.m. ET
Green Bay, Wis. – Kress Center
Bulldogs In Green Bay For League Tourney Semifinal
The Butler women’s basketball team, the No. 2 seed in the Speedway Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship, will travel to Green Bay to play No. 3 seed Detroit in the tourney semifinal Friday evening. The Bulldogs, now 22-8 and winners of 10 of 11, are coming off a 70-57 win over Wright State. BU has already defeated Detroit twice by double digits this season.
The Starting 5 - Butler’s Top Storylines
1. Tourney Time: Butler finished 14-4 in Horizon League play and earned the second seed in this week’s league tournament. The Bulldogs, who were the No. 2 seed last year as well, defeated Wright State, 70-57, Wednesday to advance to this weekend’s play in Green Bay. This marks Beth Couture’s fourth time taking the Bulldogs to the league tourney’s semifinal round.
2. Player Of The Year: Senior forward Melanie Thornton has been named Horizon League Player of the Year as well as the league’s defensive player of the year. The Carmel, Ind., native is in the league’s top 8 in seven different categories, and in the top 4 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. Thornton is currently second in the HL with 15.6 points per game and she is also among the league leaders in rebounding (3rd, 8.3), steals (4th, 2.3) and blocks (2nd, 1.7). The 6-foot-1 senior has put up 10 double-doubles this season, and five in the last nine games. She was also named this week’s Horizon League Player of the Week after averaging 21.0 point and 6.0 rebounds in a pair of Butler road wins in Chicago last weekend.
3. Hot Stretch: Butler has won 13 of its last 15 games, including 10 of its last 11. Green Bay is the only team to have beaten the Bulldogs since Jan. 14. Over the last 15 games, Butler is shooting .455 from the floor and winning by an average margin of +12.5. Seven of the team’s eight rotation players are shooting at least .380 during the stretch. Defensively, BU is allowing just 54.9 points per game, including holding six opponents to less than 50 points.
4. Coach Couture’s Battle: BU head coach Beth Couture successfully battled breast cancer during the offseason, and she has been recently deemed officially cancer-free. She was diagnosed last April and after 16 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatments, Couture is back on the sideline for her 8th season at Butler. Couture’s last treatment came just days before the season opener at Kentucky. Butler went 3-1 in its pink uniforms and continues to wear pink Nike shoes.
5. Lester, Pittman Capture HL Awards: Senior Susan Lester was selected as the Horizon League Sixth Player of the Year for her efforts off the bench this season. She averages 8.8 points per game and currently stands 10th on BU’s all-time scoring list. Junior Alyssa Pittman, a transfer from Eastern Michigan who also scored 8.8 points a game, was voted to the league’s all-newcomer team.
Butler vs. Detroit: Butler has defeated Detroit 10 straight times dating back to 2006, including a pair of double-digit wins this season. BU routed UDM, 65-44, at Hinkle on Jan. 23 and rallied late for a 72-62 win at Calihan Hall on Feb. 18. Beth Couture is 13-4 against the Titans. However, Detroit does lead the all-time series, 31-24.
This Year vs. UDM: Butler’s two games vs. UDM were quite different. On Jan. 21, Butler held Detroit to .255 shooting in a 65-44 win. BU led the whole way and was led by Melanie Thornton (17 pts, 10 rebs) and Alyssa Pittman (16 pts). Detroit most of the second meeting on Feb. 18, but the Bulldogs finished the game on a 17-2 run to win. Thornton had 17 points and 14 rebounds in that game.
HL Tourney History: The Bulldogs are 19-19 all-time in Horizon League tournament games dating back to 1990. BU has won the tournament once, defeating Green Bay in 1996. Butler is 6-7 in the league tournament under Beth Couture.
Couture Is No. 1: Beth Couture, with 127 victories at Butler, sits alone atop BU’s all-time women’s basketball wins list. Couture passed Linda Mason, who coached at BU from 1976-84 and won 124 games.
Conference Wins Record: Last season, Butler set a school record with 14 league victories. The Bulldogs matched that mark this season with a second consecutive 14-4 season. BU is 49-21 (.700) in league play over the last four seasons.
More On Mel: Melanie Thornton, the Horizon League Player of the Year, ranks in the top 10 in the Horizon League in seven different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in 23 of her last 24 games, and she has scored at least eight points in each game she has played this season. The senior has double-doubles in five of the last 10 games and was also named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year.
...Mel Moving Up: Melanie Thornton is fifth in BU history with 121 blocked shots, 18 short for fourth in school history. She is also battling teammate Susan Lester for a top 10 spot on BU’s career steals list. Thornton owns 155 career steals to Lester’s 152.
Ball Control: Butler has taken good care of the ball this season, ranking in the country’s top 60 with just 16.1 turnovers per game. Nine times this season, the Bulldogs have committed 14 turnovers or less. Butler had just nine turnovers last Saturday at Loyola, a season low. BU is second in the HL and top 60 in the country with a +2.52 turnover margin.
Home Sweet Hinkle: Butler posted a 12-2 record at Hinkle Fieldhouse during the regular season. BU went 4-0 at home in non-conference play and went 7-2 vs. league teams at home before winning Wednesday against WSU. Butler is 22-6 at home over the past two seasons. When combined with the nationally-ranked men’s team, Butler basketball was 27-2 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.
Change Is Good: Following Butler’s 13-point loss at Cleveland State on Jan. 14, Beth Couture changed the starting lineup. The change paid off, as the Bulldogs went 10-2 and shot .455 from the floor with Terra Burns, Claire Freeman, Devin Brierly, Chloe Hamilton and Melanie Thornton starting. Couture has since made one more tweak to the lineup, starting Brittany Bowen last weekend and now Butler has won 13 of 15.
Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and top 30 in the country with a .438 field goal percentage this season. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent six times this season, converted on 24 of 49 shots Wednesday vs. Wright State.
Best Shooting All Year: Butler picked a great time for its best shooting night of the year. In the tourney quarterfinal, BU shot a season-best 9-for-15 from 3-point range. Butler was 9-for-16 against Detroit on Jan. 23.
Depending On Defense: Butler’s defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 22 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 53.5 points and .365 field goal shooting. In eight BU losses, the team is giving up 75.4 points per game and allowing .474 percent shooting.
In Butler’s Defense: Butler has held nine opponents to less than 50 points this season, winning all nine games. The Bulldogs are also 15-0 when holding teams to less than 60 points.
Claire’s A Big Shot: Although just a freshman, Claire Freeman has a track record of hitting big shots. Her jumper with 0.6 seconds left was the difference in BU’s 71-70 win at UWM on Jan. 30. In high school last year, Freeman hit a shot with :03 left to win the IHSAA 2A state title for Heritage Christian.
Chloe Solid At The ‘4’: Chloe Hamilton, who has started the 29 games besides senior day this season, has had her best season as a Bulldogs. She scored a career-best 16 points in her first career double-double vs. Wright State on Jan. 21. She also had 16 points at Green Bay on Jan. 28 and has 10 double-figure scoring performances. She scored 14 points in Butler’s Feb. 18 win at Detroit.
Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 19-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 3-8 when the other team shoots better.
Sixth Susan: Susan Lester was selected as the league’s sixth player of the year. She has come off the bench in 22 of her 28 games this year and averages 8.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. She has been solid down the stretch scoring at least eight points in 10 of the last 12 games.
Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. With 18 points on Wednesday, Lester moved into 10th on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,240 points. She is now sixth all-time with 761 rebounds and fifth in both 3-pointers made (134) and attempted (403). Lester is also 11th all-time with 152 steals.
Susan Being A Senior: Susan Lester has made key plays down the stretch in recent games. She made two FTs with two rebounds and a block in the final 1:55 against CSU on Feb. 13. Lester had two putbacks with Butler trailing late to help the Bulldogs win at UDM. On Feb. 20 at WSU, she made two free throws in overtime with Butler down one. Last Thursday at UIC, she made two FTs with :28 left to give Butler a 62-59 lead.
...And Making Her FTs: Susan Lester ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.853). The senior, a career .811 shooter at the line, has made 40 of her last 43 foul shots dating back to Jan. 16.
Senior Adieu: Butler recognized its four seniors - three players and a manager - vs. Green Bay on Feb. 27. The two four-year seniors - Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester - have posted a 78-45 record and four winning seasons at BU. Amie Kabara has been a part of teams that are 62-30.
Winning Ways At Butler: Butler’s 22 victories this season is the team’s highest mark since 1997-98. That team went 25-6 under June Olkowski. BU has also clinched its third consecutive 20-win season, the first such stretch since 1980-82. This season is the 13th 20-win season for the Dogs, who have had a winning record five years in a row. The Bulldogs are currently top 50 in the nation in winning percentage (.733).
‘Terra-fic’ At The Point: Much of the credit for Butler’s low turnover numbers and high scoring could go to point guard Terra Burns. The junior had a career-high nine assists against zero turnovers vs. Cleveland State on Feb. 13 and added four assists to one turnover at Detroit. Burns, who also had 12 points against the Vikings, has 64 assists against just 37 turnovers over the last 15 games.
Scoring Balance: Butler has six players averaging at least 6.9 points per game as well as five Bulldogs scoring 7.7 a game. Melanie Thornton (15.6) and Brittany Bowen (11.3) lead the team in scoring followed by Alyssa Pittman (8.8), Susan Lester (8.8), Chloe Hamilton (7.7) and Terra Burns (6.9) Detroit is also balanced, having four players average 8.0 points per game.
Sue Career Note: In the final month of her Butler basketball career, Susan Lester has put her name among Butler’s all-time greats. She currently stands 10th in scoring and 5th in rebounding in school history. Lester is one of three players in BU history with 1,200 points, 700 rebounds and 150 steals in her career. Beth Piepenbrink (1979-83) and Elza Purvlicis (1980-84) are the other two.
Comeback Kids: In recent games, the Dogs have had to make a late rally to win. Butler was down 66-61 with 4:38 to go before rallying with 11 straight points for a 72-66 win vs. CSU on Feb. 13. Detroit led BU 60-55 with 3:49 left before the Dogs finished the game on a 17-2 run. At WSU, BU trailed by 13 in the second half before winning in OT. UIC led early by eight and led 31-28 at half before Butler rallied to win.
Start Me Up: Butler is 17-2 in the 19 games in which Devin Brierly has started this season. She has started the last 15 games (13-2) as well as four non-conference wins. Melanie Thornton is 20-5 as a starter and BU is 12-3 when Claire Freeman starts.
Tall Dogs: This year’s Butler roster is the tallest squad since Beth Couture arrived on campus in 2002. BU’s average height is 5-10 2/3, just a bit taller than the 2007 team.
Here’s A Stat To Watch: 3-point shooting could be a key for Butler against Detroit. BU shot well above its season average (.303) in both games against the Titans this season. The Dogs shot 15-for-33 (.455) from 3-point range in two games against UDM this season. Butler’s hot shooting was the difference against Wright State on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs hit nine 3s on their way to building a big lead. The Bulldogs are 7-4 this season when making four or less 3-pointers.
X-Factor: After averaging 11.8 points a game from Feb. 13-25, Alyssa Pittman has scored just nine points over the last four games. BU hopes she can regain the scoring form she had when she scored 16 points vs. Detroit on Jan. 23. Pittman will also be one of the players counted on to defend Detroit all-league guard Brigid Mulroy.