January 22, 2008

Bulldogs Head To Detroit On Thursday

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GAME 17
Butler (12-4, 2-3 HL) at Detroit (3-13, 0-5 HL)
Thursday, Jan. 24 - 7:00 p.m.
Calihan Hall - Detroit, Mich.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs return to the road this week when they head to Detroit on Thursday (Jan. 24) for a 7:00 p.m. contest with the Titans at Calihan Hall. Butler will try to snap its season-long two-game losing skid against Detroit, which will be playing for its first Horizon League victory.

A Good Start: Butler's 12-4 record is the program's best start to a season since the 1994-95 squad began at 16-4. The Bulldogs are also way ahead of their pace from 2006-07, as Butler didn't earn it's 12th victory last season until Feb. 22 at Milwaukee.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Titans 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 will try to end its season-long two-game losing streak at Detroit after falling to Milwaukee, 65-50, on Saturday (Jan. 19). The Bulldogs have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, holding opponents to a league low 60.2 points per game while ranking fourth in the conference with 65.8 ppg. Butler has also been the best at taking care of the basketball, touting a league-best 0.96 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 14.9 points per game and ranking second with 5.9 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.8 points and a team-best 7.6 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-leading 26 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has chipped in 5.8 points and 3.1 boards per game in her rookie season. Junior forward Tara Miller leads the nation with a 3.50 assists-to-turnovers ratio and has added 4.6 points and a team-high 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. Freshman guard Azjah Bass and freshman forward Chloe Hamilton earned their first collegiate starts against UWM on Saturday after seeing regular playing time off the bench in the first 15 games of the season. 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. Head coach Beth Couture (77-85) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Titans: Detroit (3-11, 0-5 HL) heads into Thursday's contest in search of its first Horizon League win this season. The Titans have been the league's top blocking team this season, posting a conference best 3.75 blocks per game thanks in large part to a league-high 1.81 bpg from senior center India Bruster. Junior guard Sandi Brown paces the squad in scoring with 10.4 points per game, while Bruster (5.9) and senior guard Keashawn Bond (5.1) both average over 5.0 rebounds per contest. Interim head coach Leo Piepho (2-6) replaced Mickey Barrett at the helm on Dec. 12, 2007.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler's contest at Detroit on Thursday will mark the 50th meeting between the two squads in women's basketball, the Bulldogs' second most frequent opponent behind league-foe Loyola (51 meetings). The series began during the 1984-85 season, but the Bulldogs did not register a win until the seventh meeting in 1987-88. After winning only six of the next 19 meetings, Butler would claim four-straight from 1997 to 1999 before dropping 11 of the next 12 match-ups, including nine in a row from 1999 to 2003. Six of the last seven contests have gone the way of the Bulldogs, however, including the last four.

The Last Time Against Detroit: Butler used a workman-like effort on offense, shooting 42.4 percent from the field and posting four players in double-figures, as the Bulldogs held off visiting Detroit, 77-64, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 17, 2007. The Bulldogs returned to their strong ball-handling ways, committing just 10 turnovers while dishing 20 assists. Lade Akande finished with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting while Jackie Closser (14), Ellen Hamilton (11) and Mel Thornton (10) posted double-figure scoring totals.

Milwaukee Out-Shoots Butler: The stingy defense that had been Butler's trademark throughout the early part of the season was unable to quell a hot-shooting Milwaukee squad, as the Panthers used a big second-half run to pull away for a 65-50 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Jan. 19). Just about every shot seemed to be falling for Milwaukee (10-7, 5-1 HL), as the Panthers shot a staggering 52.3 percent from the field (23-for-44) and 45.5 percent from three-point range (5-of-11). Susan Lester finished with a team-high 10 points and nine rebounds, while Cassie Freeman and Candace Bain added eight points each.

Mixing It Up: After starting the same five players through the Bulldogs' first 15 games of the year, Butler head coach Beth Couture mixed up the line-up on Saturday (Jan. 19) against Milwaukee, with freshmen Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton earning the first starts of their careers and senior Candace Bain receiving just her third collegiate starting nod.

Two Of A (Bad) Kind: The Bulldogs loss to Milwaukee on Saturday marked the first time this season that Butler had fallen in back-to-back games. The last time the Bulldogs lost two in a row was in January of last season when IPFW (Jan. 18) and Green Bay (Jan. 20) both handed Butler defeats.

Passing With Flying Colors: Thanks largely to some outstanding passing efforts in her last three games, Butler forward Tara Miller continues to reign as the NCAA Division I leader in assists-to-turnovers ratio. She touts 56 assists on the year to just 16 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 UIC on Jan. 12, however, lifted her assists per game average from 2.9 to 3.3. She currently leads the team with 3.5 assists per game.

Taking Care Of The Ball: The Bulldogs' ability to handle the basketball has been crucial to the team's success this season. Butler is 11-2 on the year when allowing the same or fewer turnovers than its opponent.

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 16 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged over five points more in the second period than the first (35.4 to 30.3). The team has been even better in league play, averaging 5.6 points more following the break (33.8 to 28.2). Butler has also averaged only 6.4 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.3 in the first half (-2.9 difference), which is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.96 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 1,116 points after passing Angela Cotton (1,080). Nikki Anderson (1988-91) is 12 points away in 14th place with 1,128 points. Akande became just the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

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 60.2 points allowed per game and ranking third with a .399 opponent field goal percentage. In fact, only seven of the Bulldogs' 16 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 fifth in the league with 14.9 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and eighth in the conference with 13.8 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 5.9 three pointers made per game and third 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 26.

...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 .301 three-point shooting percentage (71-of-236) 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.

Cleaning The Glass: Sophomore forward Susan Lester has continued to be one of the best rebounders in the Horizon League this season after finishing third in the league with 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. The Anderson, Ind., native currently finds herself in second place with 7.6 boards per game, has posted nine or more rebounds on seven occasions and boasts a team-best four double-doubles.

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 32.4 boards per contest, a difference of nearly seven per game.

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: The Bulldogs close out their brief two-game road swing on Saturday (Jan. 26) when they head to Dayton, Ohio, for a 1:00 p.m. contest with Wright State at the Nutter Center.