Bulldogs Can Clinch Second Place At Loyola

2009-10 Butler Women's Basketball
Butler (20-8, 13-4 HL) vs. Loyola (15-13, 9-8 HL) 

Saturday, March 6, 2010 - 3 p.m. ET
Chicago, Ill. - Gentile Center

 

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Bulldogs Can Clinch Second Place At Loyola

A win in Saturday's regular season finale at Loyola can clinch the No. 2 seed for the Butler women's basketball team. The Bulldogs, who have already clinched a home game in the first round of the league tournament, picked up their 20th win Thursday night at UIC. Saturday's game is also meaningful for Loyola. A Ramblers win could clinch the No. 5 seed, while a Butler win drops them to No. 6.

 

The Starting 5 - Butler's Top Storylines 

1. Horizon League Race: Despite losing to league-leading Green Bay last Saturday, Butler is very much in the Horizon League race. Butler (13-4) is one game out of first and can clinch second place and the No. 2 seed in the league tournament with a win at Loyola on Saturday. Butler may end in a tie with Detroit if the Titans defeat Wright State. However, BU has defeated Detroit twice and would own any tie-breakers with the Titans.

2. Hot Stretch: Butler has won 11 of its last 13 games, including eight of its last nine. Over the last 13 games, Butler is shooting .450 from the floor and winning by an average margin of +11.4. Seven of the team's eight rotation players are shooting at least .373 during the stretch. Defensively, BU is allowing just 55.5 points per game, including holding five opponents to less than 50 points. 

3. 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.

4. Stat Sheet Stuffer: Senior forward Melanie Thornton's athleticism has allowed her to contribute all over the floor this season. Thornton leads the team and ranks second in the Horizon League with 15.3 points per game. She is also among the league leaders in rebounding (3rd, 8.4), steals (4th, 2.3) and blocks (2nd, 1.8). She is the only player in the league to rank in the top 5 in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. The 6-foot-1 senior has put up 10 double-doubles this season, and five in the last seven games. Thornton is averaging 15.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.1 blocks while shooting .515 over the last nine games.

5. Winning Ways At Butler: Thursday's win at UIC clinched BU's third consecutive 20-win season. It is the first stretch of three 20-wins seasons since 1980-82 and is the 13th 20-win season in the Bulldog history. Butler has already clinched its fifth straight winning season. Butler was 20-10 in 2007-08 and 20-12 with a WNIT appearance last year.

 

Butler vs. Loyola: Butler leads the all-time series with Loyola, 38-17. BU has won 11 of 12 against the Ramblers and has won five straight at the Gentile Center. Beth Couture is 11-4 against Loyola.

First Meeting With Loyola: Butler opened the calendar year and HL play with a 72-53 win over Loyola on Jan. 2. Melanie Thornton scored 21 points and Butler went on a 17-2 run at the end of the first half to break open a close game. Susan Lester added 12 points for Butler. 

Couture Is No. 1: Beth Couture, with 125 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.

More On Mel: Melanie Thornton ranks in the top 8 in the Horizon League in seven different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in 21 of her last 22 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 seven games, including a 14-11 night vs. Green Bay on Saturday. Thornton is averaging 21.0 points in three games against Chicago schools this season.

...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. Lester has 151 steals to Thornton's 149.

My Kind Of Town: Butler has won its last six games in Chicago. BU has won three straight at both Loyola and UIC.

Tie The Conference Wins Record: A win Saturday would give BU its second straight 14-4 league record and would tie last year's school record for conference wins in a season.

Ball Control: Butler has taken good care of the ball this season, ranking in the country's top 70 with just 16.3 turnovers per game. Eight times this season, the Bulldogs have committed 14 turnovers or less. Butler had just four turnovers in the second half Thursday night at UIC. BU is second in the HL with a +2.6 turnover margin.

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.

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 shooting .455 from the floor with Burns, Freeman, Brierly, Hamilton and Thornton starting. Couture has since made one more tweak to the lineup, starting Brittany Bowen on Thursday and now Butler has won 11 of 13. 

Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and top 40 in the country with a .435 field goal percentage this season. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent six times this season, converted on a season-high 53.5 percent (32-for-60) of its shots vs. Youngstown State on Feb. 11. 

Depending On Defense: Butler's defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 20 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 53.8 points and .362 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 eight opponents under 50 points this season, winning all eight games. The Bulldogs are also 13-0 when holding teams to less than 60 points.

Chloe Solid At The ‘4': Chloe Hamilton, who has started the 27 games besides senior day this season, scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting at Detroit on Feb. 18. The junior 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. After a slow start at UIC, she scored nine points in the second half to help the Dogs to the win.

Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 17-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 3-8 when the other team shoots better. 

Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. Lester is one point shy of 11th on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,213 points. She is now sixth all-time with 750 rebounds and fifth in both 3-pointers made (132) and attempted (399). Lester recently moved into 10th on the all-time list for steals with 151.

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. Thursday at UIC, she made two FTs with :28 left to give Butler a 62-59 lead.

...And Making Her FTs: Susan Lester ranks fourth in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.838). The senior, a career .807 shooter at the line, has made 33 of her last 36 foul shots dating back to Jan. 16.

Senior Adieu: Butler recognized its four seniors - three players and a manager - Saturday vs. Green Bay. The two four-year seniors - Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester - have posted a 76-45 record and four winning seasons at BU. Amie Kabara has been a part of teams that are 60-30.

‘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 56 assists against just 31 turnovers over the last 13 games.

Comeback Kids: In five of BU's last six 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 15-2 in the 17 games in which Devin Brierly has started this season. She has started the last 13 games (11-2) as well as four non-conference wins. Melanie Thornton is 18-5 as a starter and BU is 12-3 when Claire Freeman starts.

Here's A Stat To Watch: Loyola is -4.0 in rebounding margin, ranking ninth in the Horizon League. Butler has a size advantage over LU and needs to control the boards to offset Loyola's league-best .374 3-point shooting.

X-Factor: After averaging 11.8 points a game from Feb. 13-25, Alyssa Pittman has scored just six points in the last two games. She is ready to regain her February scoring form while also coming off the bench to guard Loyola's corps of long-range shooters.