Bulldogs Battle Wright State On Saturday
Butler (13-4, 3-3 HL) at Wright State (6-11, 3-3 HL)
Saturday, Jan. 26 - 1:00 p.m.
Nutter Center - Dayton, Ohio
The Opening Tip: Butler closes out a brief two-game road trip on Saturday (Jan. 26) when the Bulldogs take on Wright State beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Nutter Center. The two squads find themselves in a three-way tie with Valparaiso for fifth place in the Horizon League with a 3-3 conference record.
A Good Start: Butler's 13-4 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 13th victory last season until March 1 against Youngstown State.
Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Raiders 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 aims for its second-straight win a its fourth victory in league play when it takes on the Raiders on Saturday (Jan. 26). The Bulldogs have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, holding opponents to a league low 60.3 points per game while ranking in a third-place tied with 66.1 points on offense. 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 15.6 points per game and ranking second with 6.1 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.8 points and a team-best 7.4 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-leading 29 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and a team-high 3.4 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has chipped in 5.7 points and 3.0 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 4.5 points and 3.3 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 has been the Bulldogs starting point guard in the last two games, while and freshman forward Chloe Hamilton earned her first collegiate start last weekend. 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 (78-85) is in her sixth season at Butler.
A Look At The Raiders: Wright State (6-11, 3-3 HL) heads into Saturday's game after claiming a tough-fought 51-50 victory over Valparaiso on Thursday (Jan. 24). Freshman guard Sheylani Peddy paces the team with 14.7 points per game and leads the Horizon League with 3.2 steals per contest. Senior forward Whitney Lewis (12.9) and freshman guard LaShawna Thomas (10.2) also boast double-figure scoring averages, while senior forward Sierra Crayton has pulled in a team-best 5.4 rebounds per game. Head coach Bridgett Williams (67-104) is in her seventh season with the Raiders.
The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler's contest at Wright State on Saturday will be the 35th meeting between the two squads in women's basketball in a series that dates back to the 1982-83 season when the Bulldogs claimed an 81-62 victory in the first head-to-head showdown. After WSU tallied wins in the next two contests, the Bulldogs reeled off wins in 13 of the next 14 match-ups from 1988 to 1999. Since then, the Raiders hold a 10-7 record against Butler, including an 5-5 mark against Beth Couture.
The Last Time Against Wright State: Jackie Closser unleashed a barrage of three-pointers en route to a career-high 28 points and the Bulldogs led throughout the entire affair as Butler notched a 68-56 over Wright State at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 3, 2007. The Bulldogs held a dominant edge from three-point in the contest, connecting on 12-of-26 for 46.2 percent while holding Wright State to just 3-of-18 (16.7 percent). Butler also converted 13 Raider miscues into 24 points, compared to just nine WSU baskets off Bulldog turnovers.
Butler Escapes From Detroit: Lade Akande scored a season-high 27 points, including 19 in the second half, and the Bulldogs rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to claim a 72-62 victory over host Detroit at Calihan Hall on Thursday night. Butler found itself in a significant hole late in the first period, as the Titans held a 30-19 advantage with 4:38 remaining in the stanza. The Bulldogs, however, cut the gap to three at the break thanks to a 12-4 run before out-scoring Detroit 41-28 in the second period for the win. Akande finished with a career-high 12 field goals (12-for-18) and added nine boards, while Susan Lester chipped in 14 points.
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 in the last two games, with five players seeing their first starts of the season during that span. Freshmen Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton and senior Candace Bain started against Milwaukee on Jan. 19, while Bass, senior Cassie Freeman and junior Candyce Brown got the nod at Detroit on Thursday.
Stopping At Two: The Bulldogs' victory at Detroit on Thursday snapped a season-long two game losing streak. The two-game stretch was Butler's longest winless drought since the team dropped back-to-back games to IPFW and Green Bay last January.
Passing With Flying Colors: Thanks largely to some outstanding passing efforts in three of her last four 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 3.50. 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 ranks second on the team with 3.3 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 12-2 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 17 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged over five points more in the second period than the first (35.8 to 30.4). The team has been even better in league play, averaging 6.3 points more following the break (35.0 to 28.7). Butler has also averaged only 6.5 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.1 in the first half (-2.6 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.
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 60.3 points allowed per game and ranking fourth with a .405 opponent field goal percentage. In fact, four Butler foes have been held to 50 points or fewer during the year.
Stop `Em At 64: The Bulldogs are 11-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.
Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. With her 27 points at Detroit on Thursday, the Robinson, Ill., native moved past both Nikki Anderson and Ellen Hamilton and into 13th place with 1,143 career points. She became the 19th player in school history with 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.
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 15.6 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and seventh 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 6.1 three pointers made per game and third with 318 attempts. Ironically enough, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 29.
...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 .305 three-point shooting percentage (74-of-243) 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 third place with 7.4 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 31.8 boards per contest, a difference of over 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: Butler opens up a four-game home stand
next Thursday (Jan. 31) when it welcomes Cleveland State to Hinkle
Fieldhouse for a 7:00 p.m. contest.