February 27, 2007

Butler Begins Final Regular-Season Homestand Against Youngstown State

Feb. 27, 2007

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Game 27
Youngstown State (7-18, 5-9) at Butler (12-14, 9-5)

Date: Thursday, March 1, 2007
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Location: Hinkle Fieldhouse (10,757) Indianapolis, Ind.

Tip-Off: The Bulldogs (12-14, 9-5 Horizon League) begin their final home-stand of the regular season when they host Youngstown State on Thursday (March 1) beginning at 7:00 p.m. A Butler win over the Penguins would clinch third place in the league standings, giving the Bulldogs their highest finish since the 1998-99 season. The win would also give Butler its most league wins in the five years under head coach Beth Couture.

A Look At the Bracket: Despite having only two games remaining in the Horizon League regular season, the Bulldogs' post-season future is still somewhat uncertain. Butler is guaranteed at least a fourth-place finish in the league standings and home-court advantage in the quarterfinals on Wednesday (March 7), while a victory over either Youngstown State or Cleveland State this weekend would clinch third. Butler's foe in quarterfinal game is much less clear, as one of four teams (Cleveland State, Loyola, Wright State or Youngstown State) could be opponents depending upon the outcomes of this weekend's match-ups.

The Last Time We Met: All five Butler starters finished in double figures, and the Bulldogs shot a season-best 51.8 percent from the field en route to an 80-56 thumping of Youngstown State at the Beeghly Center on Dec. 30. Butler turned to the three-pointer to power the offense, hitting 12-of-28 from beyond the arc with six different players notching at least one. Meanwhile, the Penguins were limited to 33.3 percent shooting from the field. Tara Miller paced the offense, finishing with a game-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from three. Cassie Freeman added 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting with two treys, while Ellen Hamilton finished with 13 points.

Butler Basketball on the Web: Cory Schnurbusch serves as the play-by-play voice of the Butler women's basketball team for the 2006-07 season. The broadcasts feature live game action on the web at www.ButlerSports.com and are offered for free. Butler also has streaming video available for the remaining Horizon League contests.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler (12-14, 9-5 Horizon League) sits in third place in the Horizon League standings after winning seven of its last 10 league contests. The Bulldogs have used the three-pointer as a large part of their scoring, with over 35 percent (209-of-593) of their field goals coming from downtown and their 8.0 treys per game ranking fourth in the NCAA Division I. Senior guards Jackie Closser (13.9 ppg) and Ellen Hamilton (8.7 ppg) have each eclipsed 1,000 points in their careers this season and rank in the top-five in the Horizon League in three pointers per game. Sophomore center Lade Akande adds a strong inside presence, averaging 14.2 ppg, while freshman post Susan Lester leads the team with 5.8 rpg. Sophomore guard Tara Miller has provided an all-around boost with 7.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg and 3.9 apg, while junior forward Cassie Freeman adds a long-range threat from the post position with a .354 three-point percentage. Candyce Brown and Candace Jones provide depth on the perimeter, while forwards Candace Bain and Mel Thornton are the top post options off the bench. Head coach Beth Couture (319-197) is in her fifth season with the Bulldogs.

Butler Pushes Phoenix To The Limit Before Falling Short: Butler picked up right where it left off in its previous game, launching a barrage of three-pointers and holding a lead for the majority of the first 30 minutes of play, but host No. 24 UW-Green Bay rallied back in the final 10 minutes to come away with an 84-70 victory in the Phoenix Sports Center on Feb. 24. Fresh-off sinking a school-record 15 three-pointers at UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 22, Butler opened the floodgates once more against the Phoenix, hitting 11 triples, but was unable to hang on down the stretch, as UW-Green Bay used a 15-2 run midway through the second to pull away for the win.

Milestone In Sight: Butler has turned things around for the best during head coach Beth Couture's tenure, and this season could be the best yet. The Bulldogs need just one win for their 10th in league play this season, the most since the 1997-98 team went 13-1 and the most in Couture's five seasons. The Bulldogs have posted a pair of 9-7 marks under Couture, coming in 2003-04 and 2005-06.

Raining Threes: The Bulldogs' effort from the three-point arc against UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 22 not only broke the Butler single-game record but was one of the top performances in the nation this year. The 15 makes is the most in the Horizon League this season and one shy of the league record of 16, set by UW-Green Bay on three occasions. It is also tied with six other teams for the single-game season-high in all of the NCAA Division I.

National Attention: The Bulldogs are currently listed in the NCAA Division-I Top-50 in six categories. As a team, Butler ranks fourth with 8.0 three-pointers made per game and 38th in three-point percentage at 35.4. The Bulldogs have also yielded only 14.8 turnovers per game, the 26th-lowest mark in the nation. Senior guard Jackie Closser finds herself mentioned in two categories, ranking in a 20th-place tie with 2.5 treys per game and 39th with an 84.8 free throw percentage. Ellen Hamilton is the newest addition to the charts, ranking 24th with a 40.5 percent efficiency from three-point thanks largely to a 10-for-17 (.588) performance from beyond the arc last weekend.

Numbers Game: The Bulldogs are 7-1 in Horizon League play this year when leading at halftime and are 8-1 when they score more three-pointers than league foes. Free throws and turnovers have also been key, as Butler is 7-2 in league play when out-scoring its opponent from the line and 7-2 when committing fewer turnovers.

Ellen Dials In: Senior co-captain Ellen Hamilton has returned to her strong offensive form in the past three games. After averaging just over four points per game in her previous eight contests, including a pair of scoreless affairs, Hamilton regained her stroke against Detroit, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay, notching double-figure point totals in all three games while going a combined 13-of-22 (59.1 percent) from three-point.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have had a rather difficult time attempting to pick the pockets of the Butler players this season. The Bulldogs have yielded 14.8 turnovers per game this year, the second-fewest in the Horizon League and the 26th-fewest in the nation. Butler also ranks second in the league in assists-to-turnover ratio at 1.0. In fact, the Bulldogs have allowed no more than 14 miscues in nine of their last 11 games, while their six turnovers against Air Force on Nov. 22 remains the lowest single-game total in the Horizon League this season.

The Tara Miller Effect: It might be pure coincidence, but things have turned for the better ever since sophomore guard Tara Miller became eligible to play. Since dropping a closely-contested battle to No. 16 Louisville in Miller's first game, Butler has won 10 of its last 16 games and has averaged almost 14 points more per game (58.7 to 72.4). Meanwhile, Butler has gone from being out-scored by nearly 15 points per game to holding a four point edge on its foes. Miller has provided a spark in just about every aspect of the game during that time, averaging 7.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

Keeping it Going: With her three makes from three-point at UW-Green Bay on Feb. 24, Jackie Closser extended her streak of consecutive games with a three-pointer to 54 in a row. Her trek is the longest active streak in the NCAA and is only six shy of the Division I record of 60. However, time is at a premium, as the Bulldogs will need to advance to the NCAA Tournament for Closser to play in enough games to reach the mark.

Triple Threat: The Bulldogs have been nearly unstoppable from three-point range this season. Butler leads the Horizon League and is fourth in the NCAA with 8.0 three-pointers made per game while ranking second in the league with a .354 three-point percentage. The Bulldogs have averaged even more in league games, ranking second with 8.7 per game and a .369 percentage.

Closser And Hamilton Lead the Way: Senior guards Jackie Closser and Ellen Hamilton have led the way for the Bulldogs from downtown this season. Closser leads the team and the Horizon League with 2.5 makes per game, while Hamilton has hit 2.0 per game for fourth in the conference.

Accuracy Counts: Ellen Hamilton, Jackie Closser and Cassie Freeman have each made the most of their attempts from long distance. Hamilton leads the team, is fifth in the Horizon League and 24th in the nation with a .405 three-point percentage (53-of-131), while Closser checks in at 10th in the conference at .365 (66-of-181). Freeman, meanwhile, is the only post player ranked among the league's top 15, placing 12th with a .354 percentage (28-of-79).

Jones, Miller and Lester: No, it's not a law firm; it's just an example of how many other options the Bulldogs have for pulling the trigger from three. Sophomore guard Candace Jones has hit 11-of-34 from three for a .324 shooting percentage, while sophomore guard Tara Miller has netted 27-of-75 (.360) in just 17 games with the team. Meanwhile, forward Susan Lester has added long range ability from the post position with a .350 mark (21-of-60).

Akande Brings It From The Paint: It's not all about shooting from long range for the Bulldogs, as sophomore Lade Akande can attest. The 6-1 center leads the team in scoring with 14.2 points per game despite not taking a single shot from beyond the arc this year. In fact, the Robinson, Ill. native has yet to shoot for three in 52 career games. She currently leads the team and is sixth in the Horizon League with a .489 field goal percentage.

...And She Does It In Conference Play: Akande has stepped up her game even further in Horizon League play. She is fourth in the league with 16.2 points per game and is fifth with a .542 shooting percentage from the field. She has also pulled in 5.9 rebounds per league game, the seventh-highest total, and has posted a pair of double-doubles.

Double Trouble: Freshman Susan Lester has been nearly unstoppable at times this year, especially of late. In Butler's last nine contests, she has averaged 13.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while notching four double-doubles. She has led the Bulldogs in rebounding 12 times this season, and her five double-doubles and 5.8 rebounds per game pace the squad.

Minute Minder: Jackie Closser must really enjoy time-outs, because she doesn't get too many other opportunities to catch her breath. The senior guard has played fewer than 35 minutes only three times this year and has played the full 40 minutes in six. In fact, her 30 minutes played at UW-Milwaukee on Feb. 22 is tied for her shortest outing of the season. She currently leads the Horizon League with 36.9 minutes per game.

Moving On Up: After eclipsing 1,000 points in their careers this season, senior guards Jackie Closser and Ellen Hamilton continue to move up the Butler all-time scoring list. Closser currently touts 1,252 points in her career and is eighth in the Bulldog record books after passing Liz Skinner (1,224). Meanwhile, Hamilton ranks 14th with 1,111 and needs 18 to move past Nikki Anderson (1,128) for 13th. Closser became the 17th player in school history to reach 1,000 points at Louisville on Dec. 18, while Hamilton became number 18 at Cleveland State on Dec. 28.

Taking Advantage of Charity: It's not as if Jackie Closser is asking to go to the free throw line, but, when she does, she makes opponents pay. She is currently second in the league and 39th in the nation in free-throw efficiency, netting 84 of her 99 attempts for a .848 average. Closser has missed only seven shots in Horizon League play this season (55-of-62) and is first with an .887 percentage. Her mark includes a perfect 12-for-12 performance at Detroit on Jan. 18.

...And It Could Be The Most Ever: Jackie Closser has spent a lot of time on the court this season, but she could end up spending more time on the floor than anyone else in Butler history. Closser has played 3,562 minutes in her career, the third-most all-time, and needs only 46 minutes to pass Mary Majewski (3,607) for the most in school history. At her current clip of 36.9 minutes per game, she is on track to break the record during the final regular season contest against Cleveland State on March 3.

Hamilton Is Right Behind: Ellen Hamilton has been a staple on the floor for the Bulldogs alongside Closser and touts rare figures in terms of minutes played. The senior guard has played 3,017 minutes in her career for ninth on the all-time list and needs to play nine minutes to pass Martha Kondalski for eighth (3,025).

A Little Bit Of Help: Jackie Closser has been extremely helpful to the Bulldogs on offense this season and during her career. The senior guard ranks fourth in the Horizon League with 3.9 assists per game and is fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.5. She also touts 427 assists in her career, the fifth-most in school history. Fourth place is a ways off, however, as Barb Skinner dished 509 from 1980-83. The school record of 584 was set by Melissa Kilgore from 1985-88.

...While a Lot of Help Goes A Long Way: Butler had a ton of assistance with its shooting against UW-Milwaukee on Jan. 27, as every one of the Bulldogs' season-high 31 field goals was assisted on. The 31 assists is the Horizon League's single-game standard for this season, while the 31-on-31 percentage was just one off of the NCAA Division-I single-game record of 32 assists on 32 makes, set by St. Louis in 1986.

Butler Inks Quartet For 2007: High school stand-outs Azjah Bass, Terra Burns, Chloe Hamilton and Jenny Ostrom have all signed national letters of intent to attend Butler and play basketball beginning in the fall of 2007. All four have earned all-state accolades and are either approaching or have surpassed 1,000 points in their careers.

At The Buzzer: Butler closes out the regular season at home on Saturday (March 3) when it welcomes Cleveland State to Hinkle Fieldhouse for a 2:00 p.m. contest. Prior to the game, the Bulldogs will honor their three seniors - Jackie Closser, Carla Gheorghe and Ellen Hamilton.