Butler Closes Regular Slate Saturday At Cleveland State

March 6, 2009

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GAME 29
Butler (18-10, 13-4 Horizon) at Cleveland State (18-11, 12-5 Horizon)
Saturday, March 7 - 3:00 p.m.
Wolstein Center - Cleveland, Ohio

The Opening Tip: Butler closes the regular season on the road on Saturday (March 7) when it battles host Cleveland State beginning at 3:00 p.m. at the Wolstein Center. After locking up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament, the Bulldogs will try for their 14th win in conference play - which would equal the most in program history - against a Viking squad that had won 11 of its previous 13 contests before falling to Valparaiso on Thursday.

Record Year: Butler's 13-4 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since 1997-98, while the 13 wins are tied for the fourth-most in school history and are just one shy of matching the program's highest total of 14 set in 1992-93.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Cleveland State 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 13 of their 17 Horizon League contests by holding their opponents to 50 or fewer points in 11 games. Strong defense has been the critical element to the team's success this year, as 15 of the Bulldogs' 18 wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points. Sophomore guard Brittany Bowen has been the Bulldogs' hottest offensive player in the last 20 games, leading the team with 13 points per game during that span. A trio of dominant post players have been vital to the team's success, as senior Lade Akande (10.8 points, 5.9 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (10.1, 7.4) and Susan Lester (9.7, 5.9) have been among the team's top scorers and rebounders all season. Sophomore Terra Burns (2.3 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.9) are two of the team's best helpers and provide strong perimeter defense. The Butler bench has out-scored their foes' reserves in all but three games and accounted for over 38 percent of the squad's offensive output.

A Look At The Vikings: Cleveland State carries an 18-11 overall record and a 12-5 mark in Horizon League play after dropping a tough 70-52 contest to Valparaiso on Thursday (March 5). Prior to that, the Vikings had won five-straight and 11 of the previous 13. Four CSU players average double-figure scoring totals, including junior guard Kailey Klein who ranks second in the league with 17.0 points per game while pacing the team with 3.2 assists per game. Sophomore guard Shawnita Garland is second with 12.5 points, while senior forward Dominique Butler leads the way with 7.0 rebounds.

The Series Against CSU: Saturday's contest against Cleveland State will be the 31st meeting between Butler and CSU in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding a 20-10 advantage in the series that began during the 1994-95 season. The Bulldogs claimed the first eight matches and nine of the first 10 before the Vikings notched victories in seven of the following eight games. Butler had won eight in a row before CSU snapped the streak with a win last year. The two squads have alternated decisions in the last three games, with the Bulldogs claiming the most recent meeting this past January.

The Last Time Against Cleveland State: Butler used a dominant presence on the defensive end in the first contest of the Horizon League season, as the Bulldogs held visiting Cleveland State to their second-lowest opponent scoring total en route to a 55-46 victory over the Vikings at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Jan. 3) afternoon. Lade Akande led the way with 14 points while Brittany Bowen chipped in 11 as Butler out-shot the Vikings 47.6 percent to 31.0 percent in the second half to come away with the win.

Butler Surges Past YSU: Lade Akande led all scorers with 16 points, Brittany Bowen and Candyce Brown each added 12 and the Bulldogs used a strong second-half surge to overcome a determined Youngstown State squad to post a 61-42 victory at the Beeghly Center on Thursday evening. Akande finished with a 7-of-11 effort from the floor to lead all scorers with 16 points and chipped in six rebounds. Bowen hit 4-of-9 from the floor and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc for her 12, while Brown finished with a 4-of-7 mark from the field and a 2-for-4 effort from long range for a career-best 12 points.

Locking Up No. 2: Thanks to its win at Youngstown State and a couple other helpful results elsewhere in the Horizon League on Thursday, Butler will head into the 2009 Horizon League Tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Bulldogs currently boast a 13-4 record in conference play while, thanks to a loss to Valparaiso, Cleveland State enters Saturday's match-up a game behind at 12-5. If Butler should fall to the Vikings on Saturday, the two teams would end the regular season tied at 13-5, but the Bulldogs would hold the tie-breaker thanks to a win by Wright State over Loyola on Thursday. The tie would be broken by comparing both squads records against the highest ranking league team and continuing down the standings until one team gains an advantage. In that case, the two teams would be even until reaching Wright State's place in the standings, against whom Butler went 2-0 on the year while the Vikings finished at 1-1.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive player in the last 20 games, leading the team with 13.0 points per contest on 49.7 percent shooting from the field (86-for-173), 45.1 percent from three-point range (37-for-80) and 89.5 percent from the free throw line (51-of-57). 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 and eight rebounds. Since then, she has recorded 15 double-figure scoring games - including two with 20 or more points.

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 38th in the NCAA in scoring defense (56.0 ppg) as well as tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (38.3 percent).

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 15-2 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

...But 50 Is Better: Butler is 14-0 on the year and 11-0 in league play when it holds opponents to 50 or fewer 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.

Century Mark: The Bulldogs' win over UIC on Feb. 12 gave head coach Beth Couture her 100th victory at Butler. Her 103 wins are the third-most in school history, ranking behind only Linda Mason (124) and June Olkowski (114).

Back In The Black: Not only did Butler's win over UIC give Beth Couture 100 victories in her Bulldog career, but it also boosted her record above .500 for the first time in her six-plus seasons at the helm. She currently boasts a 103-101 mark at Butler. Couture has matched or increased the Bulldogs' win total in each of her previous seasons, going from just six in her first year to 20 last year. She boasts a 361-218 (.623) record in over 19 seasons of coaching between both Butler and Presbyterian College.

You're Number Two: With 1,661 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 is pretty much out of reach, however, as Julie VonDielingen holds the school record of 2,018 points. 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 737 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 37 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 11 statistical categories, including scoring average, rebounding average, field goal percentage 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.

1,000 On The Radar: With 940 career points, junior Susan Lester has a chance to become the 20th player in school history with 1,000 career points this season. If Butler advances to the Horizon League Championship game, she would need to average 15 points per game to reach the total. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, ranking in a tie for seventh with 108.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 15-1 on the year when leading 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 25.6 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held nine opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including seven 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 13-4 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 49-25 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: A deep bench has been critical to the Bulldogs' success this year. In fact, the Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 311 point margin (682 to 371) for an average of over 11 more points per game (24.4 to 13.3). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 12 of 28 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 38 percent of the team's total offense (682 of 1,789).

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 15.6 turnovers per game, including season-low nine at IPFW on Nov. 18. The Bulldogs' average puts them at the top of the league standings and 48h in the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game, while their +3.6 turnover margin is second in the conference and 41st 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 nine meetings so far, topping Evansville (70-52), Miami (86-81, 2OT) and CSU (55-46).

Post Presence: The Bulldogs are 11-3 on the season and 6-0 in league play when at least two members of their post trio of senior Lade Akande and juniors Susan Lester and Melanie Thornton finish with double-figure point totals.

Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 17-1 on the season when it equals to tops its opponent's output from the free throw line, including a perfect 12-0 mark in league play.

Charitable Efforts: Brittany Bowen ranks second in the Horizon League with a .894 free throw percentage in conference play, hitting 42 of her 47 attempts from the line.

Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has put together a year to remember. Her 282 points, 206 rebounds and 65 steals through 28 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 7.4 rebounds per game are tops on the team, while her 10.1 points per contest are the third most.

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 second place in defensive boards and third place marks in blocks and total rebounds.

What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 14-4 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 leads the Bulldogs with 28.6 minutes played per league game.

Making Her Point: In just her second season, sophomore 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 20 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in 17 of the last 18 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.3 assists per game and boasts 7.0 points per game in league contests.

Dominating The League Stats: As if the 13-4 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.

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.

So You Want To Be A Coach: Senior guard Tara Miller has been invited to participate in the upcoming seventh annual Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) So You Want To Be A Coach Program to be held in conjunction with the organization's national convention April 3-7 in St. Louis, Mo. She is one of just 54 women's basketball players in the country to be named to the 2009 class. Each participant is selected based on their academics, contributions to women's basketball on and off the court, professional resume and a written recommendation from their head coach.

Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, 11 of Butler's 18 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.

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.

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.

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 opens up the 2009 Horizon League Tournament as the No. 2 seed at home on Wednesday, March 11, against the winner of the first round contest between the No. 7 and No. 10 seeds on Monday, March 9.