Butler Heads To Youngstown State On Thursday

Butler Heads To Youngstown State On Thursday

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Butler (17-9, 7-8 HL) at Youngstown State (12-13, 7-7 HL)
Thursday, Feb. 28 - 7:00 p.m.
Beeghly Center - Youngstown, Ohio

The Opening Tip: Butler kicks off its final road swing of the regular season on Thursday (Feb. 28) when it battles Youngstown State beginning at 7:00 p.m. at the Beeghly Center. The Bulldogs, who notched their 17th win of the year against Detroit on Saturday (Feb. 23), will try to win their second game of the season and fifth in a row versus the Penguins.

Crunching The Numbers: The Bulldogs' 17-9 overall mark is the program's best record through 26 games since the 1997-98 season (22-4). Butler's 17 victories are also the most for a single season during head coach Beth Couture's six years at the helm.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Penguins 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 tries to build on its winningest season in the last decade when it takes on Youngstown State on Thursday night. The Bulldogs have been one of the top defensive teams in the conference, ranking second with 61.8 points per game and third with a +3.3 point scoring margin. Butler has also been among the best at taking care of the basketball, leading the league with only 15.0 turnovers per game and ranking second with a 0.93 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who ranks ninth on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring chart with 1,300 points, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the squad this season with a team-best 16.2 points per game while ranking second with 6.5 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 12.5 points and a team-high 7.1 boards while adding outside shooting with a team-high 39 three-pointers. Freshman guards Azjah Bass and Brittany Bowen have stepped up their games in conference play, with Bass averaging 6.4 points and Bowen scoring 7.7. Junior guard Candyce Brown has started in the last 10 games and is third on the squad with 2.2 assists. Junior forward Tara Miller ranks second in Division-I with a 3.25 assists-to-turnovers ratio and paces the team with 3.12 assists per game, while junior guard Candace Jones ranks third on the team in scoring (7.3) and second in assists (3.08). Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman have been the top post options off the bench, while sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint. Freshmen Terra Burns and Chloe Hamilton and sophomore Amie Kabara add depth. Head coach Beth Couture (82-90) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Penguins: Youngstown State enters Thursday's contest with a 12-13 overall record and a 7-7 mark in Horizon League play after falling to Cleveland State, 82-66, on Feb. 23. The Penguins have been one of the top defensive teams in the league this year, ranking second in both perimeter defense (.317) and blocks (3.6), third in rebounds (37.2) and fourth in field goal defense (.414). Senior guard Heather Karner (13.3 points per game) and junior forward Tiara Scott (13.2) pace the squad in scoring, while senior forward Jessica Schloemp leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per contest. Head coach Tisha Hill (43-94) is in her fifth season with the Penguins.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Saturday's contest will be the 15th meeting and the eighth contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse between Butler and YSU in women's basketball. The Bulldogs hold a 9-5 edge in the series that dates back to 2001-02 season. After the Penguins claimed victories in the first four contests played, Butler has rebounded to win 10 of the last 11 games, including the past four.

The Last Time Against YSU: Susan Lester tallied her sixth double-double of the year with 13 points and 11 boards, Lade Akande notched a game-high 18 points and the Bulldogs, who had been in need of a strong defensive performance, shut down visiting Youngstown State in claiming a 63-48 victory over the Penguins on Feb. 2, 2008. Butler held the Penguins to its lowest opponent total since limiting Oakland City to 46 on Dec. 3 while holding a commanding 42-28 edge in points in the paint. Brittany Bowen and Azjah Bass each added 10 points.

Second-Half Rally Gives Butler Win: Lade Akande tallied a team-high 17 points, Brittany Bowen added 10 and the Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first half on offense to pull out a 67-63 victory over visiting Detroit on Feb. 23 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs had to play catch up right from the beginning, as Detroit spotted itself a 10-0 lead to start the game before building up as much as a 13-point margin (21-8) with 9:13 to go in the opening period. After shooting just 30 percent (9-for-30) in the first half, Butler answered with a 50 percent (13-for-26) effort following the break to complete the comeback.

Stop `Em At 64: Including their 67-63 win over Detroit on Feb. 23, the Bulldogs are 14-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of its best basketball in the second period this year. In 26 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged six points more in the second period than in the first (35.6 to 29.6). Butler has also averaged only 6.3 turnovers in the second period compared with 8.7 in the first half (-2.4 difference).

The First 20: How the Bulldogs play in the first period seems to have quite a bit of determination on how the team fares in a game. Butler is 13-1 this year when heading into the locker room with a lead at the break.

Learning On The Fly: Freshmen guards Brittany Bowen and Azjah Bass have come into their own during league play this season, as the two newcomers rank third and fourth on the team in scoring at 7.7 and 6.4 points per game, respectively. The tandem has had some of their most impressive performances of late. In the last eight games, Bowen is averaging 9.0 points per contest, including five double-figure scoring efforts and a career-best 20 points against UIC on Feb. 7, while Bass has averaged 7.8 points per game with three double-digit games and a career-high 18 points at Wright State on Jan. 26.

Tale Of Two Teams: The Bulldogs have played like two different teams at times this season, with one capable of shutting down an opponents' offense and another that struggles on the defensive end. In Butler's 17 victories this season, opponents have managed just 38.0 percent from the field while scoring only 57.2 points per game. In the nine losses, however, Butler's foes have converted 51.7 percent for 70.6 points.

Holding On To The Ball: Butler has been notably more adept at handling the basketball in the past few games, as the Bulldogs have yielded less than 15 turnovers in eight of the last 11 contests, including a season-low nine against Loyola on Feb. 9. Butler currently leads the Horizon League and ranks 29th in the country with 15.0 turnovers per game.

...Taking It From Others: Opponents have not had the same amount of luck as the Bulldogs when it comes to maintaining possession. Butler foes have turned over the ball 18.7 times per game while the Bulldogs rank third in the conference with 9.5 steals per game, including double-figure pick totals in six of the last seven contests.

...And Making Them Pay: Butler has used its opponents' miscues to its advantage this year, averaging 17.1 points off turnovers per game, including 10 games with 20 or more points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have only allowed 14.2 points per game resulting from turnovers. In fact, 26.2 percent (444-of-1,694) of Butler's points have come off turnovers.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. With her 17-point performance against Detroit on Saturday, the Robinson, Ill., sits in ninth place on Butler's all-time scoring chart with 1,300 points in her career. She is now just 20 points away from tying Sarah Schuetz's eighth-place total of 1,320. Akande became the 19th player in school history with 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

Next In Line?: After converting a pair of free throws off the bench against Detroit, sophomore Susan Lester brought her career scoring total to 613 points, which is second most among Butler's active players.

Tracking The Bracket: If the Horizon League Championship was to begin today, the Bulldogs would enter the tournament as the No. 7 seed and would host an opening round game against No. 10 Detroit on March 10. Butler is currently tied for sixth in the standings with Valparaiso at 7-8, but the Crusaders hold the tie-breaker by virtue of a 77-69 head-to-head win on Jan. 5.

National Recognition For Passing: Junior forward Tara Miller has found herself among the best in the country when it comes to handling the ball this season. She is currently second in all of the NCAA Division-I with a 3.25 A/T ratio and trails national leader Kristi Cirone of Illinois State (3.33) by just eight hundredth of a point. Miller has been ranked first or second nationally in A/T ratio since Jan. 14, including a 25-day stint from Jan. 14 to Feb. 7 at the top of the NCAA charts. Her 3.1 assists per game lead the team and are tied for 12th in the Horizon League.

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 16.2 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 12th in the conference with 12.5 points to her credit.

Out Of Range: Just because the Bulldogs have focused their offense away from the perimeter doesn't mean they are going to allow their opponents to take advantage of long range scoring. Butler is second in the conference by allowing just 4.8 treys per game and have held eight opponents to three or fewer three-pointers in a game.

Hard To Miss: Lade Akande has not only been one of the most effective scorers in the Horizon League this year, she has also been one of the most efficient shooters in the nation. Akande is 27th in the Division-I rankings with a .558 field goal percentage (179-for-321).

Youth Movement: Butler's success this season has been greatly impacted by the quick maturation of its newcomers. This year's rookie class has been thrust into action, with at least one freshman player earning a start in all 26 games and two rookies in the lineup in each of the past seven contests. In fact, the four active freshmen players have been responsible for over 24 percent (231-of-952) of the team's scoring in Horizon League play this year.

Block Party: Junior Lade Akande currently ranks second in the Horizon League with 1.4 blocks per game. The Butler center has posted two or more blocks in 12 games this year and a team-high four against Monmouth on Nov. 23.

Cleaning The Glass: Sophomore forward Susan Lester has continued to be one of the best rebounders in the Horizon League this year after finishing third in the league with 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. The Anderson, Ind., native is currently third in the league with 7.1 boards per game, has posted nine or more rebounds on 10 occasions and boasts a team-best seven double-doubles.

Uncommon Non-Conference: The Bulldogs' 10-1 record against non-Horizon League opponents this season was the best mark since the 1990-91 squad finished with a 10-1 slate.

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 take on Cleveland State in their final road game of the regular season on Saturday (March 1) beginning at 3:00 p.m. at the Wolstein Center.