March 21, 2009

Butler Continues WNIT Trek At Marquette On Monday

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GAME 32
Butler (20-11) at Marquette (16-15)
2009 Women's National Invitation Tournament
Second Round
Monday, March 23 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Al McGuire Center - Milwaukee, Wis.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs try for its first 21+ win season in over a decade when they continue their run in the 2009 WNIT in the second round at Marquette on Monday (March 23) beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT) at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee.

Welcome To The Post-Season: The Bulldogs' appearance in the WNIT this year is the program's first trip to post-season play since the 1997-98 campaign, when Butler finished the Horizon League season with a league-best 13-1 record before falling to second-place Green Bay in the conference title game. They entered the WNIT with a 24-5 on the year and defeated Bowling Green in the first round before falling to LSU in the second round.

20/20 Vision: The Bulldogs' win over Duquesne in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday (March 19) was the team's 20th win of the season and gave the program back-to-back 20 win seasons for the first time since Butler scored 21 victories in both 1994-95 and 1995-96.

The MCC Reunion Tour: Butler's two WNIT opponents so far in the 2009 tournament are somewhat familiar to the team. Both Duquesne and Marquette were each one-time conference opponents when they were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) in the early 1990's. Duquesne spent one season in the MCC during the 1992-93 campaign, as the Bulldogs went 3-0 against the Dukes during the year. Marquette, meanwhile, was an MCC member for two seasons from 1989 to 1991, during which time Butler was 4-1 against the Golden Eagles.

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 Bulldog rolled to 14 wins during the Horizon League season 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 17 of the Bulldogs' 20 wins on the year have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points. Sophomore guard Brittany Bowen paces the team on offense with 11.0 points per game thanks to a team-best 49 three-pointers. A trio of dominant post players have been vital to the team's success, as senior Lade Akande (10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds) and juniors Susan Lester (10.1, 6.0) and Melanie Thornton (9.6, 7.1) have been among the team's top scorers and rebounders all season. Sophomore Terra Burns (2.5 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.7) are two of the team's best helpers and provide strong perimeter defense. The Butler bench, meanwhile, has played a critical role during the season, as the Bulldogs' reserves have out-scored their foes' by an average of over 10 points per game.

A Look At The Golden Eagles: Marquette begins the WNIT on Monday after finishing the regular season with a 16-15 overall record and a 7-9 mark in the Big East. After falling in their final four games of the season - including a 60-54 overtime loss to Cincinnati in the conference tournament - the Golden Eagles have had plenty of time to rest up, as Monday's contest will be their first since March 6. Sophomore guard Angel Robinson leads the team with 14.3 points and 3.7 assists per contest, while freshman forward Jessica Pachko is the squad's top rebounder with 5.4 per game.

The Series Against Marquette: Butler and Marquette will be meeting for the seventh time in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding a 5-1 lead in the all-time series. After Butler claimed a win in the first-ever meeting during the 1985-86 season, the Bulldogs went on to win four of five match-ups when both teams were members of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (Horizon League) in 1989-90 and 1990-91.

Record Year: Butler's 14-4 league record is the program's best conference mark since 1997-98, while the 14 wins are tied for the most in school history with the 1992-93 squad, which went 14-2 under head coach Paulette Stein.

Bulldogs Rally To Top Duquesne: A lay-up by Candace Jones in the finals seconds of play proved to be the difference, as the Bulldogs overcame as much as an 11-point deficit to score a 59-58 victory over host Duquesne in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday (March 19) evening. Trailing by one with 14 seconds left in the seconds half, Jones took a pass from Tara Miller on the left side of the floor and drove from the timeline through a barrage of Duquesne defenders and banked in a soft lay-up to give the Bulldogs a one-point edge with 2.2 seconds on the clock. Duquesne burned its final timeout to draw up the last play of the game, but the final three-point attempt at the buzzer sailed wide and the celebration was on for Butler. Lade Akande led all scorers with 26 points and 12 rebounds, Brittany Bowen picked up her first collegiate double-double with 10 points and 10 boards and Susan Lester added 11 points as the Bulldogs improved to 20-11 on the season.

Long Time Coming: Butler's win over Duquesne in the first round of the WNIT mark the program's first post-season victory since the Bulldogs claimed a 95-90 win at Bowling Green in the 1998 WNIT First Round.

1,000 On The Radar: With 982 career points, junior Susan Lester has a chance to become the 20th player in school history with 1,000 career points this season, needing just 18 points to attain the mark.

...But That's Not All: Susan Lester's career scoring total is not the only statistic will have her listed among the best in program history. She recently moved into 10th-place all-time with 604 career rebounds and also ranks sixth with 116 three-pointers made.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 17-3 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.

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 among the best in the NCAA in scoring defense (56.1 ppg) as well as second in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (38.7 percent).

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.

All Alone At No. 2: The Bulldogs finished the regular season alone in second place with a 14-4 conference record. The second-place standing is the team's best out-right finish since the 1997-98 team finished as the league's regular season champion. The 2006-07 squad ended up tied with UIC for the second spot.

Defensive Recognition: After concluding a break-out regular season in which she ranked in among the best in the Horizon League in steals, blocks and defensive rebounds, Butler junior forward Melanie Thornton was named to the conference's All-Defensive Team. The Carmel, Ind., native wrapped up a 2008-09 campaign in which she ranked second in the league with 5.3 defensive rebounds per game, third with 1.2 blocked shots per contest and sixth with 2.3 steals per game. Her 7.3 rebounds, 67 steals and 36 blocks lead the squad, while her 10.1 points are the fourth-most.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive player in the last 23 games, leading the team with 13.1 points per contest on 49.3 percent shooting from the field (101-for-205), 47.3 percent from three-point range (44-for-93) and 90.3 percent from the free throw line (56-of-62). 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 18 double-figure scoring games - including two with 20 or more points.

You're Number Two: With 1,698 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 and was the school's first non-senior player to reach the milestone since Jennifer Marlow in 1997-98.

...And Making Other Lists: With 753 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 21 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 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.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 16-1 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.

Century Mark: The Bulldogs' win over UIC on Feb. 12 gave head coach Beth Couture her 100th victory at Butler. Her 105 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 105-102 mark at Butler. Couture has matched or increased the Bulldogs' win total in each of her seasons, going from just six in her first year to 20 last year. She boasts a 363-219 (.624) record in her 20th season of coaching between both Butler and Presbyterian College.

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 25.7 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 15-5 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 51-26 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. The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 326 point margin (746 to 420) for an average of over 10 more points per game (24.1 to 13.5). In fact, Butler's bench has out-scored its opponents' in all but four games this season, while the Bulldogs' leading scorer in 13 of 31 games has been a reserve.

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. Lade Akande came close to the mark at Duquesne on March 19, scoring 26 off the bench.

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 in the top-50 in the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game, while their +3.6 turnover margin is second in the league and one of the best in the nation.

Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 18-1 on the season when it equals or tops its opponent's output from the free throw line, including a perfect 13-0 mark in league play.

Charitable Efforts: Brittany Bowen finished the regular season as the Horizon League leader with a .898 free throw percentage in conference play, hitting 44 of her 49 attempts from the line. She currently boasts a team-best .857 (60-for-70) mark on the season.

Post Presence: The Bulldogs are 13-3 on the season and 7-0 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.

Battle-Tested: The Bulldogs played 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 won four of the meetings during the regular slate, topping CSU twice (55-46 and 68-59) as well as Evansville (70-52) and Miami (86-81, 2OT).

Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has put together a year to remember. Her 298 points, 221 rebounds and 70 steals through 31 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 7.1 rebounds per game are tops on the team, while her 9.6 points per contest are the fourth most.

Good Odds: Lade Akande has registered double-figure point totals in 88 of her 119 games played at Butler - an impressive 74 percent of her career games.

What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 16-5 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 is second on the team with 24.9 minutes played and was the Butler leader in minutes during the Horizon League season with 28.9 per contest.

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 23 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in 20 of the last 21 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.5 assists per game and boasts 5.6 points per contest.

Dominating The League Stats: As if the 14-4 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs ranked among the top-three in the league in a total of 10 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: A win over Marquette would send the Bulldogs into the third round to face either Illinois State or Louisiana Tech on a date and at a site to be determined.