Butler Battles Detroit In Sunday Afternoon Contest

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GAME 22
Detroit (7-14, 3-7 Horizon) at Butler (13-8, 8-2 Horizon)
Sunday, Feb. 8 - 2:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler tries to continue its successful run through the Horizon League season on Sunday (Feb. 8) when it closes a two-game homestand against Detroit beginning at 2:00 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. At 8-2 in league play, the Bulldogs are off to their best start to the conference schedule since the 1997-98 campaign and will try for their second victory over the Titans this season after claiming a 71-48 decision in early January.

How's That For Starters: Butler's 8-2 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since the 1997-98 campaign and is tied for the sixth-best start through 10 games in program history.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against Detroit will feature live streaming video online on 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 schedule at www.ButlerSports.com. The contest will also feature live stats through Gametracker, which can be viewed by clicking the link.

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 eight of their first 10 Horizon League contests by holding all but two teams to 50 or fewer points. Strong defense has been the critical element to the team's success this year, as 12 of the Bulldogs' 13 wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points. A trio of post players has been the driving force behind the team during the year, as junior Melanie Thornton (11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds), senior Lade Akande (11.1, 5.8) and junior Susan Lester (9.2, 5.2) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (9.1 points, 28 three-pointers) has been the most effective perimeter scorer, while senior Candace Jones (4.7, 19) has added to the outside threat off the bench. Sophomore Terra Burns leads the way at the point with 2.4 assists per game, while senior Candyce Brown has been one of the top defensive perimeter players as a starter in the last 11 games. Senior Tara Miller, sophomore Chloe Hamilton and freshman Devin Brierly add depth off the bench.

A Look At The Titans: Detroit takes a 7-14 overall record and a 3-7 Horizon League mark into Sunday's contest after scoring wins in two of its last three games, including an impressive 62-47 victory at Valparaiso on Friday (Feb. 6). The Titans' biggest win of the season was their first of the year, as Detroit ousted 23rd-ranked Georgia, 70-66, at Calihan Hall on Nov. 22. Senior guard/forward Sandi Brown leads the team with 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, while junior forward Brigid Mulroy boasts 11.0 points per contest thanks largely to a team-high 42 three-pointers. Freshman guard Jalesa Jones, meanwhile, paces the team with 3.0 assists per game.

The Series Against Detroit: Sunday's contest against the Titans will mark the 53rd meeting between the two squads in women's basketball, with Detroit being Butler's second most frequently played opponent. 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 claimed four-straight from 1997 to 1999 before dropping 11 of the next 12 match-ups - including nine in a row from 1999 to 2003. Nine of the last 10 contests have gone the way of the Bulldogs, however, including the last seven straight. Head coach Beth Couture is 10-4 all-time against the Titans.

The Last Time Against Detroit: Four players finished with double-digit scoring figures and the Butler defense held its fourth-straight opponent to 50 or fewer points, as the Bulldogs broke open what had been a closely-contested game in the early going to run away with a 71-48 victory over host Detroit on Jan. 8 evening at Calihan Hall. Susan Lester led all scorers with 14 points off the bench, while Brittany Bowen (12), Melanie Thornton (11) and Lade Akande (10) each registered double figures in scoring.

Hot-Shooting Butler Stops WSU: Melanie Thornton led the way with 17 points and six boards, three others finished with double-figure scoring totals and Butler used a stifling defensive stand in the final 10 minutes of the opening period to pull away for a strong, 58-45, victory over Wright State on Friday (Feb. 6) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs shined brightly under the national spotlight in a game that was televised on ESPNU, as Butler hit 59 percent from the field in the first half while holding the Raiders without a field goal in the final 10 minutes of the period and without a point for the last eight and a half.

That's Some Shooting: Butler's 55.0 field goal percentage (22-for-40) against Wright State on Friday was the program's best single-game accuracy in nearly 10 years, when the Bulldogs hit 31-of-50 (62.0 percent) from the field against (coincidentally) the Raiders on Feb. 20, 1999. Butler has hit over 50 percent in just two other games this season, coming at home against Youngstown State and Valparaiso.

Almost Perfect: A big reason for the Bulldogs' shooting success from the field was due to the accurate touch of Melanie Thornton. The junior forward came off the bench to connect on her first seven shots from the floor before just missing her eighth and final attempt midway though the second half.

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 32nd in the NCAA in scoring defense (55.1 ppg) as well as first in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.4 percent). Butler has held 10 foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including nine Horizon League foes.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 12-2 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

Defensive Longevity: The Bulldog defense might be one of the best in the Horizon League, but for an eight-game stretch at the start of league play, they were one of the best in school history. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 23, Butler held eight consecutive opponents to 50 or fewer points, the longest such streak in school history. Opponents averaged just 45.3 points during the run. The 1978-79 team held the previous mark of seven-straight of allowing 50 or fewer.

Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over WSU on Feb. 6, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within two victories of her 100th at Butler. Her 98 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.

Breaking Even: Butler's win over Valparaiso on Jan. 23 gave Beth Couture a 97-97 record in six-plus seasons with the Bulldogs - her first .500 record with the team since beginning her tenure at 1-1 during the 2002-03 campaign. Her Butler record currently stands at 98-99 and can break the .500 mark for her first time with the Bulldogs with wins in the next two games. Couture has matched or increased Butler's win total in every season she has been at the helm, going from six in her first year to 20 last season.

You're Number Two: With 1,594 points scored in her career, senior center Lade Akande ranks second on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. The Robinson, Ill., native steadily climbed from seventh place at the start of the season to second after passing Elza Purvlicis (1,517) with her first bucket against Youngstown State on Jan. 5. First place appears to be quite out of reach, however, as Julie VonDielingen's record of 2,018 points would require Akande to average well over 40 points in the final eight 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: With 695 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 79 more to catch Sarah Schuetz in fourth place (774) and a whole lot more to reach record-holder Elza Purvlicis (1,050). Akande is on pace to finish her career ranked in the top-10 in 12 statistical categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, steals and minutes played.

Approaching Rare Figures: Lade Akande enters Sunday's game against Detroit just five rebounds away from becoming just the second player in school history to record 1,500 points, 700 rebounds and 100 blocks. She currently touts 1,584 points, 690 rebounds and 130 blocks. Elza Purvlicis (1981-84) is the other player, boasting 1,517 points, 1,050 boards and 164 blocked shots.

Can You Spare A Minute: With 2,932 minutes played in her career, Akande needs just 16 to enter the Bulldogs' top-10 list for career minutes played. Debbie Benziger (1995-98) currently ranks 10th with 2,948.

1,000 On The Radar: With 862 career points, junior Susan Lester needs to average 17.3 points per game in the final eight regular season contests to become the 20th player in school history with 1,000 career points. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at eighth with 101.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 11-1 on the year when heading into the locker room with a lead at halftime.

...And Lester Helped With That: Susan Lester's 27 points scored in the first half of the Bulldogs' win against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 was not only eight more than the entire Crusaders' roster scored combined but was also tied for the highest total in a first half in all of Division I this year. Shantia Grace of South Florida scored 27 points in the first period against Coppin State on Nov. 23.

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 just 25.0 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held seven opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including five Horizon League foes.

Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 268 point margin (542 to 274) for an average of 12.8 more points per game (25.8 to 13.0). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 11 of 21 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 40 percent of the team's total offense (542 of 1,326).

Speaking Of Bench Scoring: Susan Lester's 31 points off the bench against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 is tied for the second-highest bench player total in Division I this season. Jessica Breland of North Carolina also scored 31 points off the bench at Oklahoma on Nov. 23.

Odd Yearly Trends: Happy New Year indeed, especially since there's a "9" on the end. In the last five calendar years (including the impressive 8-2 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 44-23 record (.657) in odd years. Even years have not been as kind to Butler, however, as the Bulldogs finished both 2006 and 2008 with a combined 28-32 record (.467).

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16.3 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 +3.5 turnover margin is second in the league and among the top-50 in the nation.

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 eight meetings so far, topping Evansville (70-52), Miami (86-81, 2OT) and CSU (55-46).

Weekly Honors: Lade Akande and Susan Lester have each earned Player of the Week awards from the Horizon League this season. Akande helped the Bulldogs to wins against Evansville (Dec. 3) and Coastal Carolina (Dec. 6) by averaging a team-high 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while posting two double-doubles. Lester, meanwhile, scored a career-high 31 points off the bench in a win against Valparaiso on Jan. 23, hitting 11-of-19 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc despite playing just 24 minutes the entire game.

Downright Offensive: Susan Lester's 31 points against Valpo finished just six shy of the Butler school record and was the school's highest single-game point total since Sarah Bolten matched the Bulldog record with 37 against Bowling Green on Dec. 4, 2001. Lester's 27 first half points were eight more than the entire Valparaiso roster and her 10 first period field goals made were twice that of the Crusaders.

Going Postal: Butler's recent success has been largely dictated by the play of a trio of post players, as junior Melanie Thornton (11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds), senior Lade Akande (11.1, 5.8) and junior Susan Lester (9.2, 5.2) currently ranked as the top three scorers and rebounders on the team.

Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 237 points, 167 rebounds and 57 steals through 21 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 11.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game are tops on the team. Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.7 steals per game rank among the best in the country this year, as her average puts her 42nd in all of the NCAA Division I.

Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance this year 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 is listed in the league's top-10 in six categories, including a first-place tie in defensive boards and third-place marks in blocks and total rebounds.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive players in the last 13 games, leading the team with 11.7 points per contest while hitting a total of 23 three-pointers during that stretch. The current run began with 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 28 threes this year lead the team, while her 1.3 three-pointers made are the ninth-most in the league.

Charitable Contributions: In addition to her long-range prowess, Brittany Bowen has had quite a knack for scoring from the free throw line, especially during league play. The Columbus, Ind., native paces the conference with a .957 free throw percentage, missing just one of her 23 attempts from the line in 10 games.

...And Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 13-1 on the season when it out-scores its opponents from the free throw line, including a perfect 8-0 mark in league play.

Making Her Point: In just her second season, sophomore guard Terra Burns has stepped up as the Bulldogs' top option at the point in 2008-09. The Peoria, Ill., native has earned a starting spot in 14 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in the last 11 contests. Her 2.4 assists lead the team, while her 5.2 points are fifth on the squad.

Dominating The Boards: Butler has been the top rebounding team during the Horizon League season, pacing the conference with 36.6 rebounds per game and a +6.1 rebounding margin.

...And The Rest Of The Stats: As if the 8-2 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs also rank among the top-three in the league in a total of 13 statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, blocks and turnover margin.

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.

Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, four of the Bulldogs' 12 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 1982-83 Bulldogs were the last squad to post four or more 30-point wins in a season.

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.

Next Up: The Bulldogs open up a three-game road swing next week when they head north to Chicago for a battle with UIC on Thursday (Feb. 12) beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT).