January 18, 2008

Bulldogs Look To Rebound Against Milwaukee

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GAME 16
Milwaukee (9-7, 4-1 HL) at Butler (12-3, 2-2 HL)
Saturday, Jan. 19 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler closes out a brief two-game homestand on Saturday (Jan. 19) when it hosts Milwaukee beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs will aim to rebound from a tough defeat to Green Bay on Thursday (Jan. 17), while the Panthers will bring a four-game winning streak into the contest.

Celebrating Dr. King: In the continuation of a tradition, the Horizon League will honor the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a student-centered arts contest, which will culminate with celebrations at seven league basketball games on Saturday, including the Bulldogs' home game against Milwaukee. Butler has partnered with nearby North Wayne Elementary School to organize a contest for fifth- and sixth-graders who will submit a piece of art, an essay or a musical performance focusing on the life of Dr. King, with 15 winners selected to be recognized prior to the game.

A Good Start: Butler's 12-3 record is the program's best start to a season since the 1992-93 squad began at 12-3. The Bulldogs are also way ahead of their pace from last year, when Butler didn't earn it's 12th victory until Feb. 22 at Milwaukee.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Panthers can be viewed online via the Horizon League Network. The streaming video is available for free and can be accessed at www.ButlerSports.com by clicking on the "Watch" link on the schedule at the bottom of the front page. Live stats of the game will also be available on Gametracker by clicking the link on the schedule.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler plays for its third straight win over Milwaukee after claiming a pair of victories over the Panthers last season. The Bulldogs have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, holding opponents to a league low 59.9 points per game while ranking third in the conference with 66.8 ppg. Butler has also been the best at taking care of the basketball, touting a league-best 0.95 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who became the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 points on Dec. 6, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the team this season, leading the squad with 15.5 points per game and ranking second with 6.1 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 14.1 points and a team-best 7.5 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-leading 25 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 8.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has chipped in 6.1 points and 3.1 boards per game in her rookie season. Junior forward Tara Miller leads the nation with a 3.47 assists-to-turnovers ratio and has added 4.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman have played in all but one contest this season and bring leadership and a strong post presence to the floor. Junior guard Candyce Brown adds strong defensive prowess and a long-range shooting touch on the perimeter, while sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint. Rookie forwards Chloe Hamilton and Amie Kabara, as well as freshmen guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth. Head coach Beth Couture (77-84) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Panthers: Milwaukee takes a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game, picking up wins against Detroit, Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Valparaiso. The Panthers are second in the league in scoring at 67.1 points per game and hold a league-best +6.5 rebounding edge over their opponents. The team is led by junior center Traci Edwards, who boasts a league-best 19.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Aubri Rote has added 11.1 points per game and 2.25 treys per contest. Head coach Sandy Botham (189-142) is in her 12th season with the Panthers.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler and Milwaukee will square off for the 29th time in women's basketball this weekend, with the Panthers holding a slim 15-13 edge in the all-time series that dates back to the 1981-82 campaign. The Bulldogs do, however, boast a 7-6 advantage in games played at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler claimed wins in the first six match-ups and nine of the first 12 contests before Milwaukee reeled off eight-straight decisions from 2000 to 2004. Since then, the two squads have split the series 4-to-4, with Butler winning both meetings last season.

The Last Time Against UWM: A staggering display of long-distance shooting by the Bulldogs overpowered any offensive attempt by Milwaukee, as Butler nailed a school-record 15 treys en route to a 74-59 victory over the host Panthers at the Klotsche Center on Feb. 22, 2007. Susan Lester paced the Bulldogs with 18 points coming on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from three-point. Ellen Hamilton, meanwhile, notched all 15 of her points on three-pointers, going 5-of-8 from distance. In all, six Butler players chipped in a three-pointer, with Jackie Closser and Tara Miller hitting two and Cassie Freeman and Candace Jones adding one each.

Green Bay Halts Butler: Butler was unable to get its offense clicking in the early going as visiting Green Bay built up a double-digit lead midway through the first period en route to a 73-58 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday. Despite several attempts to climb back into the contest, the Bulldogs were unable to get the defensive stops they needed throughout the game, as Green Bay controlled the scoring down low with a 46-to-22 edge on points in the paint and turned 20 Butler turnovers into 22 points. Susan Lester finished with a team-high 13 points and five rebounds.

Passing With Flying Colors: Thanks in part to a season-high eight assists at UIC and another six against Green Bay, Butler forward Tara Miller continues to reign as the NCAA Division I leader in assists-to-turnovers ratio. She touts 52 assists on the year to just 15 turnovers for an A/T ratio of 3.47. Miller had been the Horizon League's leader in A/T ratio for much of the season, but she did not qualify for the national rankings because she lacked the minimum of 3.0 assists per game required by the NCAA. Her eight assist performance against the Flames, however, lifted her assists per game average from 2.9 to 3.3, while her six assists and two turnovers against the Phoenix kept her on top of the list.

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of it's best basketball in the second period this year. In 15 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged over five points more in the second period than the first (36.2 to 30.6). The team has been even better in league play, averaging 7.5 points more following the break (36.3 to 28.8). Butler has also averaged only 6.5 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.3 in the first half (-2.8 difference), which is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.95 assists-to-turnovers ratio.

The First 20: The Bulldogs may be a second-half team, but the first period seems to have had a lot of impact on how the team fares in a game. Butler is 11-0 this year when heading into the locker room either leading or tied at the break.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. The Robinson, Ill., native currently stands in 15th place with 1,111 points after passing Angela Cotton (1,080). Nikki Anderson is 17 points away in 14th place after scoring 1,128 points from 1988-91. Akande became just the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

Offensive Boost: It seems the Bulldogs have found their shooting stroke in the last few games. After averaging just 58.6 points through the first five contests of the year, the Bulldogs have turned up the offense in the last 10 by averaging 70.9 points per game, an increase of over 12 points per contest.

Taking A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. The Bulldogs have been among the best in the Horizon League this season when it comes to keeping opponents off the board, leading the league with only 59.9 points allowed per game and ranking third with a .393 opponent field goal percentage. In fact, only six of the Bulldogs' 15 foes have scored over 60 points while four have tallied 50 or fewer.

Centers Of Attention: The Bulldogs have had a history of being among the best teams in the nation in three-point shooting ever since head coach Beth Couture arrived in Indianapolis, including a 2006-07 campaign that saw Butler rank second in the NCAA Division I with 8.4 treys per game. This season, however, the Bulldogs have seen a lot more action from inside the three-point arc, as junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have been the team's offensive leaders. Akande currently paces the squad and is third in the league with 15.5 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and seventh in the conference with 14.1 points to her credit.

...But Don't Think The Three Is Out: Just because the Bulldogs feature two of the best post players in the Horizon League doesn't mean they have eliminated their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is fourth in the league with 6.1 three pointers made per game and fourth with 274 attempts. Ironically enough, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 25.

...And How About That Three-Point Defense: Adding to the effect of Butler's three-point attack this year has been its ability to keep their opponents from converting long range shots. The Bulldogs lead the league by holding their foes to a .293 three-point shooting percentage (66-of-225) and are tops in the conference by allowing just 4.4 treys per game. In fact, four opponents have been held to two or fewer three-pointers in a game (Ohio and Bradley with one, Ball State and Loyola with two), while only three have scored more than five.

Taking Care Of The Ball: The Bulldogs' ability to handle the basketball has been crucial to the team's success this season. Butler is 11-1 on the year when allowing the same or fewer turnovers than its opponent.

Keeping Them Off The Boards: The Bulldogs have turned up their defense on the glass in Horizon League play. After allowing 39.2 boards per game during the non-conference season, Butler has held its first four league foes to just 31.8 boards per contest, a difference of over seven per game.

Defending The Glass: No player in the Horizon League has been better on the defensive glass this year than Susan Lester. The sophomore forward leads the conference with 5.7 defensive rebounds per game, including 6.3 per game in league contests.

Hall Of Fame: Former Butler women's basketball player Liz Skinner Spencer was named as a 2008 inductee to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Jan. 7. Skinner Spencer, who played with the Bulldogs from 1979-82, reigns as the school's all-time steals leader with 419. She also holds three of the top four single-season pick totals and set the single-game thefts record of 11 on two occasions. She was inducted into the Butler Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

Butler Inks Two For 2008-09: Indiana high school standouts Devin Brierly and Kaley May each signed National Letters of Intent to attend Butler and play basketball for the Bulldogs beginning in the 2008-09 school year. Brierly, a 5-10 senior guard from Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind., is a three-time all-conference and all-section team member and a two-time all-region team honoree. May, a 5-11 guard/forward from Avon (Ind.) High School, was twice named to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine All-State Team and was tabbed to the Indiana Junior All-Star Team.

Sticking Around: Head coach Beth Couture signed a five-year contract extension in September to remain at the helm through the 2011-12 season. Couture has brought Butler full circle since taking the helm in 2002, going from a three-win season the year before her arrival to the program's first appearance in the Horizon League Championship game last season.

Next Up: Butler returns to the road on Thursday (Jan. 24) when it heads north to Detroit for a 7:00 p.m. contest with the Titans at Calihan Hall.