Butler Returns To Indianapolis To Host Loyola Thursday

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A Conversation with Coach Couture on HLN

GAME 16
Loyola (5-8, 0-3 HL) at Butler (9-6, 4-0 HL)
Thursday, Jan. 15 - 7:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Off to one of the best starts to the Horizon League season in school history, Butler returns to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday (Jan. 15) when it opens up a three-game homestand against Loyola beginning at 7:00 p.m. At 4-0 in conference play, the Bulldogs find themselves atop the league standings thanks in part to a stingy defense that has held opponents to an average of just 45 points per game in the last five contests.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Loyola will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. Mark Minner and Carl Heck will have the call for the game, which can be viewed for free by clicking the "Watch on HLN" link on the calendar at www.ButlerSports.com. The contest will also feature live stats through Gametracker, which can be viewed by clicking the Gametracker link on www.ButlerSports.com.

How's That For Starters: The Bulldogs' 4-0 conference record ranks as the third-best perfect start to the league season in program history.

A Look At The Bulldogs: After battling through a challenging non-conference schedule that featured six teams which advanced to post-season play in 2007-08, the Bulldogs have claimed convincing wins in their first four Horizon League contests, holding Cleveland State (46 points), Youngstown State (50), Detroit (48) and Wright State (41) to 50 or fewer points. A duo of post players has been the driving force behind the team this season, as senior Lade Akande (12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (11.9, 7.9) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Strong defense and effectiveness on the perimeter have been two critical elements to the team's success this year, as eight of the Bulldogs' nine wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points and while seven have come after scoring five or more three-pointers. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (8.5 points, 20 three-pointers), junior Susan Lester (7.7, 12), senior Candace Jones (4.4, 13) and freshman Devin Brierly (4.2, 14) have helped the Bulldogs average 5.4 threes in their last 10 games. Sophomore Terra Burns and senior Candyce Brown have provided strong defense on the perimeter as starters in the last five games, while senior Tara Miller and sophomores Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.

A Look At The Ramblers: Loyola boasts a 5-8 overall record and a 0-3 mark in league play. After starting the season at 5-3, the Ramblers have dropped their last five games - including three-straight to Detroit, Wright State and UIC. Despite the record, Loyola is second in the conference with a .438 shooting percentage and third with 65.2 points per game. Junior forward Elyse VanBogaert paces the squad with 13.2 points and 6.7 rebounds, while junior guards Keisha Collins (3.0 assists, 12.3 points) and Maggie McCloskey (2.7, 11.8) are 1-2 on the team in assists and 2-3 in scoring.

The Series Against Loyola: The Bulldogs have faced the Ramblers more times in their history than any other opponent, as the two teams will meet for the 53rd time on Thursday. Butler owns a 35-17 all-time record against Loyola in a series that dates back to a 68-58 Bulldog victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse during the 1982-83 season. After the Ramblers claimed 10 of the next 16 contests, Butler reeled off wins in 18 of the successive 19, including 14-straight from 1992 to 1998. Loyola took victories in five of seven match-ups from 2001 to 2004, but the Bulldogs went on to win eight straight before the Ramblers snapped the streak last February.

The Last Time Against Loyola: Butler rallied from a 13-point deficit midway through the second half to take a one point lead with just over two minutes remaining, but visiting Loyola converted four free throws and used a late defensive stand to claim a 67-64 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 9, 2008. A go-ahead three-pointer by Azjah Bass capped an 18-4 Butler run, but the Ramblers used several clutch defensive stops and some timely rebounding to hold on in the final minutes. Lade Akande led the Bulldogs with 16 points, while Bass finished with 10.

Battle-Tested: The Bulldogs will play a total of 10 games during the regular season against teams that advanced to post-season play during the 2007-08 campaign, including Cleveland State, Dayton, Evansville, Green Bay, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska and Ohio State. The Bulldogs have won three of the seven meetings so far, topping Evansville (70-52), Miami (86-81, 2OT) and CSU (55-46).

Butler Shuts Down WSU: Smothering defense and clutch free throws down the stretch paved the way for the Bulldogs, as Butler battled to a grueling 46-41 victory over host Wright State on Jan. 10 afternoon at the Nutter Center. Susan Lester led the way on offense for the second-straight game, finishing with 11 points off the bench, and Terra Burns added a career-best 10 - thanks largely to an 8-for-8 effort from the free throw line - as the Bulldogs picked up their fifth-straight win and eighth in their last 10 games.

You're Number Two: With 1,548 points scored in her career, senior center Lade Akande ranks second on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. After entering the season in seventh place, Akande steadily climbed the chart before moving into sole possession of second by passing Elza Purvlicis (1,517) with her first bucket against Youngstown State on Jan. 5. The Robinson, Ill., native will need quite a strong finish to the season to catch record-holder Julie VonDielingen (2,018), needing an average of 33.6 points per game in the final 14 regular season games to break the mark. Akande became just the 19th player in school history to notch 1,000 points in her career early last season and quickly climbed up to seventh by the end of the year. She also became the first non-senior player to reach 1,000 points in her career since Marlow in 1997-98.

...And Making Other Lists: By pulling in 98 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande stands in seventh-place on the career rebounding list with 671. Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including blocks (123 - 4th) and field goals made (637 - 2nd). Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over Detroit, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within six victories of her 100th at Butler. Her 94 wins are the third most in school history. Additionally, Couture recorded her 350th collegiate coaching victory in 20 seasons between Presbyterian College (258) and Butler against Youngstown State on Jan. 5.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 8-1 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: With the win over Wright State, Butler is now 9-0 on the year when heading into the locker room with a lead at halftime.

The First 20: If leading at halftime is as important as it seems, the Bulldogs' first-half defense has given them reason to be optimistic. Butler has allowed an average of just 26.1 points in the opening period - the second-lowest average in the league - and has held five opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including the last five.

The Best Offense: ...is a great defense. Butler's defense has been crucial to the team's success this season. The Bulldogs rank second in the Horizon League and 50th in the nation in scoring defense (57.0 ppg) and second in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.8 percent). Butler has held six foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including in each of the last five games.

Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 214 point margin (394 to 180), which equates to an average of 14.3 more points per game (26.3 to 12.0). In fact, the Bulldogs' leading scorer in eight of 15 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 41 percent of the team's total offense (394 of 958).

Going Postal: Butler's success has been largely dictated by the play of a pair of post players, as senior Lade Akande (12.5 points, 6.5 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (11.9, 7.9) have ranked as the top two scorers and rebounders on the team all season long.

Downtown Living: After netting only 19 three-pointers through the first five games of the season (3.8 per contest), Butler has connected for 54 in their last 10 outings (5.4), including a season-high 10 at Evansville on Dec. 3. The added long-range effort helped the Bulldogs average over 11 points more in the last 10 games than they had in the previous five (67.7 to 56.2).

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16.4 turnovers per game, including season-low nine at IPFW on Nov. 18. The Bulldogs' average puts them in second place in the league standings in fewest turnovers per game, while their 0.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is also second in the conference.

...From Effective Helpers: A pair of Bulldog players find themselves ranked in the Horizon League's top-10 list in assist-to-turnover ratio heading into Saturday's game. Senior Tara Miller leads the team and is tied for second in the Horizon League with a 1.5 A/T ratio, while senior Candyce Brown is sixth with a 1.4 ratio.

Quite A Start: Through just 15 games this season, Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 179 points and 40 steals are already more than her career totals entering this season (176, 21), while her 118 rebounds and 407 minutes played are quickly approaching her figures from her first two seasons (141, 488).

Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance in the first 15 games not only has her ranked at the top of the team's stats but also have her among the best in the Horizon League. She finds herself listed in the league's top-10 in five categories, including a first-place ranking in defensive rebounds, a second-place mark in blocks and a third-place ranking in total boards.

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.7 steals per game rank among the best in the NCAA this year, as her average puts her in 48th place in Division I.

Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, three of the Bulldogs' seven wins have come by margins of 30 or more points, including a dominant 43-point victory over Christian Brothers that ranks as the 15th-largest margin in school history. The 1998-99 Bulldogs were the last Butler squad to post three 30-point wins in a single season.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been one of Butler's top offensive players in the last seven games, averaging 12.7 points per contest while hitting a total of 15 three-pointers. Included in that stretch was the most impressive single-game performance of her career at Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 13, as she set career-highs with 25 points, eight field goals, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and 39 minutes played. Her 20 threes this year lead the team, while her .392 three-point percentage is fifth in the league.

In Elite Company: Senior center Lade Akande has assembled one of the finest careers in school history during her three-plus years on the team. In fact, this year she accomplished something that only three other Butler players have ever done. Her five rebounds against William & Mary pushed her career rebounding total to 603, making her just the fourth player in Bulldogs history to record over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in their career. She currently touts 1,548 points, 671 rebounds and 123 blocks in her career.

1,000 On The Radar: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 783 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at 10th with 92.

Grand Theft: The Bulldogs' 25 steals against Christian Brothers ranks as a single-game high in the Horizon League this season and is just four behind the league record of 29, set by Notre Dame during the 1990-91 season. The output helped to boost Butler from a league fourth-place average of 9.8 steals per contest to a league-best 11.2 in just one game. Butler currently ranks second in the conference with 10.7 per game.

Bulldogs Ink Four For 2009-10: High school seniors Becca Bornhorst (6-1, F, Dublin, Ohio), Claire Freeman (5-9, G, Fishers, Ind.), Dragana Grbic (6-3, C, Terre Haute, Ind.) and Liz Jennings (6-1, F, Anderson, Ind.) each signed National Letters of Intent on the first day of the Early Signing Period. The quartet will attend Butler and play basketball beginning next fall.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Twenty-three of the Bulldogs' games this season will feature free live streaming video online. The Horizon League Network will feature 21 of those contests, including all of Butler's home games and every league road game. Additionally, the Bulldogs' games at Ohio State and Indiana were both streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com.

National Attention: The Bulldogs will get national attention in February, as their game against Wright State on Feb. 6 will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 9 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It will be the fourth time in four seasons Butler will appear on the ESPN network.

Next Up: Butler welcomes UIC to Indianapolis on Saturday (Jan. 17) when it battles the Flames beginning at 2:00 p.m in Hinkle Fieldhouse.