Butler (14-8, 9-2 Horizon) at UIC (12-9, 6-4 Horizon)
Thursday, Feb. 12 - 8:00 p.m. ET
UIC Pavilion - Chicago, Ill.
The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs open up a three-game, two-week-long road trip on Thursday (Feb. 12) when it heads to Chicago to face UIC in an 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT) contest at the UIC Pavilion. Off to one of its best starts to Horizon League play in school history, Butler pits a defense that ranks second in the conference and 19th in the nation in opponent field goal percentage against a Flames team that allows the fewest turnovers in the league and boasts the circuit's best assist-to-turnover ratio.
How's That For Starters: Butler's 9-2 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since the 1997-98 campaign and is tied for the third-best start through 11 games in program history.
Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against UIC will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. The game 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.
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 nine of their first 11 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 13 of the Bulldogs' 14 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 senior Lade Akande (11.0 points, 6.1 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (11.0, 7.8) and Susan Lester (9.2, 5.2) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (9.1 points, 31 three-pointers) has been the most effective long-range scorer, while sophomore Terra Burns (2.4 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.7) rank 1-2 in assists per game and provide strong perimeter defense. Senior Candace Jones (4.6 points, 19 threes) and freshman Devin Brierly (3.1, 15) add to the outside scoring threat, while senior Tara Miller and sophomores Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.
A Look At The Flames: UIC heads into Thursday's contest with a 12-9 overall record and a 6-4 mark in Horizon League play. The Flames rank as one of the top team's in the conference at handling the basketball, allowing a league-low 15.8 turnovers per game while boasting a league-high 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio. UIC also has controlled the glass, leading the conference with 40.1 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Jessie Miller paces the squad with 12.8 points and 3.0 assists per game, while freshman forward Jasmine Bailey leads the way with 6.8 rebounds and ranks second with 10.7 points. Head coach Lisa Ryckbosch notched her 100th victory in seven seasons with UIC last week.
The Series Against UIC: Butler and UIC will be meeting for the 41st time in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding a 23-17 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to the 1984-85 season. After the Flames claimed wins in five of the first six match-ups, Butler reeled off 14 in a row from 1990 to 2000. UIC would go on to win 12 of the ensuing 16 meetings, including a seven-game winning streak from 2005 to 2007, before the Bulldogs snapped the skid with an 88-83 overtime victory in the semifinals of the 2007 Horizon League Championship. Butler has won the last four games since then, including a match-up at Hinkle Fieldhouse in January.
The Last Time Against UIC: Melanie Thornton tallied her second-straight double-double, while Terra Burns and Candace Jones each added double-figure points, as the Bulldogs used an explosive second-half on offense and another dominant defensive performance to shut-down UIC, 58-48, on Saturday (Jan. 17) afternoon at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler continued to ride the crushing defense that has them out to the second-best start to the conference season in program history, holding the Flames more than 17 points below their season scoring average (65.1).
Second-Half Treys Top Detroit: Butler drained eight second-half three-pointers - including three each from Brittany Bowen and Terra Burns - to break open what had been a closely-contested game, as the Bulldogs rolled to a 60-42 victory over Detroit on Sunday (Feb. 8) afternoon. After heading into the locker room deadlocked at 19, the Bulldogs converted 51.7 percent from the field and 61.5 percent (8-of-13) from beyond the arc in the second half to finish with 41 points in the period. Burns finished with a career-best 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting from the field and a 3-of-4 mark from three-point range, Bowen added nine points - all on treys - and Lade Akande finished just one point shy of a double-double with nine points and a season-best 13 rebounds.
Burning The Hardwood: Sophomore guard Terra Burns has been vital to the Bulldogs' success in Horizon League play this season, averaging 7.1 points and 2.5 assists while starting in all 11 contests. Her last four games, however, have been some of the best of her career, as the Peoria, Ill., native posted a career-best 12 points at Green Bay on Jan. 29 before topping the mark with 13 points against Detroit on Feb. 8 by hitting a career-high three three-pointers. Her 31.8 minutes per game during that span leads the team.
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 19th in the NCAA in scoring defense (54.5 ppg) as well as tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.1 percent). Butler has held 11 foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including 10 Horizon League opponents.
Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 13-2 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 Detroit on Feb. 8, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within a victory of her 100th at Butler. Her 99 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. She enter's Thursday's game at UIC with a 99-99 record at Butler and can break the .500 mark for the first time with a win over the Flames. 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 1,603 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 out of reach, however, as Julie VonDielingen's record of 2,018 points would require Akande to average nearly 60 points in the final seven 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 708 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 66 more to catch Sarah Schuetz in fourth place (774) and a whole lot more to reach record-holder Elza Purvlicis (1,050). Akande has a legitimate chance at finishing her career ranked in the top-10 in 12 statistical categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, steals and minutes played.
In Rare Company: With her 13 rebounds against Detroit on Feb. 8, senior center Lade Akande surpassed 700 rebounds in her career and became just the second player in school history to boast over 1,500 points, 700 rebounds and 100 blocks in her career. Elza Purvlicis (1981-84) is the other player, boasting 1,517 points, 1,050 boards and 164 blocked shots.
Can You Spare A Minute: After playing 30 minutes against Detroit, Akande moved into the Bulldogs' top-10 list for career minutes played with 2,962 by passing Debbie Benziger (2,948). Martha Kondalski (3,025) is next in line.
1,000 On The Radar: With 870 career points, junior Susan Lester needs to average 18.6 points per game in the final seven 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 102.
Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 12-1 on the year when leading or tied 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 for the half 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 24.8 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held eight opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including six Horizon League foes.
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 9-2 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 45-23 record (.662) 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).
Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 276 point margin (560 to 284) for an average of 12.5 more points per game (25.5 to 12.9). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 11 of 22 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 40 percent of the team's total offense (560 of 1,326).
Speaking Of Bench Scoring: Susan Lester's 31 points off the bench against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 was 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.
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 +3.4 turnover margin is second in the league and 45th 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).
Going Postal: Butler's recent success has been largely dictated by the play of a trio of post players, as senior Lade Akande (11.0 points, 6.1 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (11.0, 7.8) and 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 243 points, 172 rebounds and 60 steals through 22 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 11.0 points and 7.8 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 31st 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 five categories, including a first-place tie in defensive boards and third place marks in blocks and total rebounds.
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.
Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive players in the last 14 games, leading the team with 11.5 points per contest while hitting a total of 26 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 31 threes this year lead the team, while her 1.4 three-pointers made are tied for the eighth-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 11 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.
What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 10-2 this season with senior guard Candyce Brown as a starter. A team co-captain this season, Brown's leadership on the floor has been vital to the success of the team, so much so that she has averaged a team-high 29.5 minutes of playing time during conference 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 15 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in the last 12 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.5 assists per game and boasts 7.1 points per game in league contests.
Dominating The League Stats: As if the 9-2 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs rank among the top-three in the league in a total of 12 conference-only statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounds and blocks.
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.
Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, nine of Butler's 14 wins have come by margins of 15 or more points, while four have been by 30 or more, 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.
Sharp-Shooters: Butler's 55.0 field goal percentage (22-for-40) against Wright State on Feb. 6 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.
Grand Theft: The Bulldogs' 25 steals against Christian Brothers rank as the second-highest single-game total 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.
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: Butler moves from the west side of
Chicago to the north when it battles Loyola on Saturday (Feb. 14)
beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. CT).