April 14, 2008

Butler Posts First 20-Win Season Since 1997-98

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Crunching The Numbers: The Bulldogs' 20-10 overall mark in 2007-08 was the program's best single-season record since the 1997-98 team finished the year at 25-6. Butler's 20 victories are also the most in a single season during head coach Beth Couture's six years at the helm.

Akande Earns First-Team All-League Honors: After finishing as one of the top scorers and rebounders in the conference during the regular season, junior center Lade Akande earned a spot on the 2007-08 All-Horizon League First Team. It is the first all-league first team mention of her career after earning spots on the all-league second team in her previous two seasons and an all-newcomer team nod as a freshman.

An Upward Trend: The Bulldogs have steadily improved under the tutelage of head coach Beth Couture, and the 2007-08 season was the finest yet. The team's 20 wins were the most during her six seasons with the team. In fact, Butler has matched or increased its win total in each year she has been at the helm.

Starting Out Strong: Butler's 10-1 start to the year was tied with the 1990-91 team for the best season-opening record since the 1981-82 squad began at 14-1.

In Good Company: Both the Butler women's and men's basketball teams got off to great starts in 2007-08. Through games played on Jan. 12, the women's squad touted a 12-2 overall record while the No. 12 men's team boasted a 16-1 mark. At that point, the two team's combined record of 28-3 was the fourth-best total among Division I basketball programs in the nation, behind only North Carolina (33-1), Tennessee (28-2) and Dayton (29-3).

We're Going Streaking!: Butler's eight-game winning streak from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29 was the program's longest since the 1997-98 team reeled-off 15-straight from Jan. 10 to March 6, 1998. During the span, the Bulldogs shot 42.7 percent from the floor and out-scored their opponents by an average of 13.3 points per game.

Butler Notches 20th Versus Valpo: The Bulldogs hit 10 three pointers for the second game in a row and used a stifling defensive effort in the final minutes to come back for a 66-58 victory over visiting Valparaiso on Saturday (March 8) for their 20th win of the season. Butler finished with a 40.4 percent effort from the field (21-for-52) while tying its season-high with 10 treys. After shooting 41.4 percent in the opening frame, Valparaiso hit just 30.8 percent (8-for-26) in the second, including an 0-for-6 stretch during the final six minutes. Lade Akande (15), Cassie Freeman (12) and Candyce Brown (11) finished with double-figure scoring totals.

Butler Claims Miami Tourney Title: Tara Miller and Candace Jones hit four clutch free throw attempts in the final seven seconds and the Bulldogs used a powerful defensive stand late in the game to claim the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament Championship with a nail-biting 62-59 victory over the host Hurricanes on Nov. 24 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla. After playing through a somewhat timid first period, the Bulldogs came out on fire in the second, out-scoring Miami 38-31 while shooting 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field. Lade Akande led all scorers with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Jones added 14 points and Susan Lester tallied 12 points and seven boards.

Akande, Jones Earn Honors: Lade Akande and Candace Jones each earned a spot on the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament All-Tournament Team. Akande was named the Tournament MVP after posting 34 points and 17 rebounds in two games, while Jones earned a spot after finishing with 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in the two contests.

Have A Good Week: Lade Akande and Susan Lester each earned Horizon League Player of the Week honors during the season. Akande was named the recipient in three of the first four weeks of the season (Nov. 14, Nov. 26 and Dec. 3), while Lester took home one of the final mentions of the year (March 3).

Stop `Em At 64: That proved to be the magic number for Butler in 2007-08, as the Bulldogs were 17-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.

Tale Of Two Teams: The Bulldogs played like two different teams at times during the 2007-08 season, with one capable of shutting down an opponents' offense and another that struggles on the defensive end. In Butler's 20 victories this season, opponents managed just 38.1 percent from the field while scoring only 57.3 points per game. In the 10 losses, however, Butler's foes converted 50.9 percent for 71.4 points.

The First 20: How the Bulldogs played in the first period seemed to have quite a bit of determination on how the team fared in a game. Butler posted a 16-2 record on the year when heading into the locker room either leading or tied at the break.

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler played some of its best basketball in the second period during the 2007-08 campaign. In 30 games, the Bulldogs averaged over five points more in the second period than in the first (35.4 to 30.2). Butler has also averaged only 6.6 turnovers in the second period compared with 8.7 in the first half (-2.1 difference).

Holding On To The Ball: Butler was notably more adept at handling the basketball during the stretch run of the regular season, as the Bulldogs yielded 16 or fewer turnovers in 11 of the final 14 regular season contests, including a season-low nine against Loyola on Feb. 9. Butler led the Horizon League and ranked 37th in the country with only 15.2 turnovers per game.

...Taking It From Others: Opponents did not have the same amount of luck as the Bulldogs when it came to maintaining possession. Butler foes turned over the ball 18.5 times per game while the Bulldogs ranked fourth in the conference with 9.4 steals per game, including double-figure pick totals in 17 contests.

...And Making Them Pay: Butler used its opponents' miscues to its advantage during the year, averaging 17.4 points off turnovers per game, including 13 games with 20 or more points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have only allowed 14.2 points per game resulting from turnovers. In fact, 26.6 percent (522-of-1,966) of Butler's points have come off turnovers.

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. The Bulldogs saw a lot more action from inside the three-point arc in 2007-08, however, as junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester finished as the team's scoring leaders. Akande paced the squad and ranked fourth in the league with 16.1 points per game, while Lester finished second on the team and 13th in the conference with 12.7 points to her credit.

One Grand 1,000: A lay-up with 1:32 left to play in the first period against Evansville placed Lade Akande in rare company with over 1,000 points in her career. The Robinson, Ill., native became just the 19th player in school history to eclipse the scoring mark and is the first Butler player to reach the milestone before her senior season since Jennifer Marlow in 1997-98.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. After becoming just the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 points in her career, Akande continued her ascent up the all-time scoring list during her junior season, moving up to seventh all-time with 1,360 career points. She tallied her milestone points on Dec. 6 against Evansville at Hinkle Fieldhouse, becoming the first non-senior to reach the mark since Jennifer Marlow in 1998-99.

Next In Line?: In just two seasons, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 668 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players.

National Recognition For Passing: Junior forward Tara Miller found herself among the best in the country when it came to handling the ball during the year. She finished the season ranked second in all of the NCAA Division-I with a 2.84 A/T ratio, just three hundredths of a point behind national leader Kristi Cirone of Illinois State (2.87). Miller was 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 3.0 assists per game were the second-most on the team and the 14th in the league.

Have A Good Year: Akande finished her junior season with 482 points, the fifth-highest single-season total in Butler history. Her output during the year was also 12 points better than her 470 points scored during her rookie campaign, which was a record for a freshman player. Julie VonDielingen holds the single-season record with 622 points scored during the 1992-93 season.

In Elite Company: Lade Akande not only ranks among the top 10 all-time in scoring but she is also fourth on the Butler charts with 111 career blocks. Additionally, with 573 career rebounds, she is 27 boards shy of becoming just the fourth Bulldog player ever with over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in her career.

Double-Double Trouble: Sophomore forward Susan Lester continued her dominance in the Horizon League in her second season on the team. After finishing second in the league with nine double-doubles as a freshman, Lester matched her first-year total in 2007-08 with nine more double-doubles, the second-most in the conference. She finished the year ranked second with 7.3 rebounds per game and 13th with 12.7 points.

Tough Luck: Lade Akande finished second on the team to Lester when it came to double-doubles, as the junior center posted four on the year. She could have very easily been the team leader, however, coming one rebound shy of posting double-figure points and rebounds in six games. Akande finished the year with 27 double-figure scoring games and registered nine or more rebounds in 10.

Hard To Miss: Lade Akande was not only one of the most effective scorers in the Horizon League this year, she was also one of the most efficient shooters in the nation. Akande finished the 2007-08 season with a .559 field goal percentage (204-for-365), the 17th-best in the Division I rankings.

Candace And Candyce: Different spellings but the same pronunciation -- and the same results. The Bulldogs have gotten quite a few assists from the steady hands of guards Candace Jones and Candyce Brown. Jones, a starter in 19 games during the year, led the team with 3.1 dishes per game, while Brown, a 13-game starter, ranked third with 2.4. In fact, one or the other was the assists leader in 18 of the team's games this year.

Cleaning The Glass: Sophomore forward Susan Lester continued to be one of the best rebounders in the Horizon League in 2007-08 after finishing third in the league with 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. The Anderson, Ind., native finished second in the conference with 7.3 boards per game, posted nine or more rebounds on 12 occasions and totaled a team-best nine double-doubles.

Uncommon Non-Conference: The Bulldogs' 10-1 record against non-Horizon League opponents in 2007-08 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.

Season Ends In League Quarterfinals: Butler overcame a 21-point first half deficit to take a three-point lead midway through the second, but host Cleveland State rode a 15-4 run late in the game to hold on for a 79-68 decision in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship on March 12 in the Wolstein Center. After the Vikings came out with the hot shooting touch in the first 10 minutes of the game to build up a 33-12 advantage with 9:29 to go, Butler (20-10) steadily climbed back, cutting the deficit to just five a the break before taking its first lead of the contest less than seven minutes into the second period. The Bulldogs could not maintain the difference, however, as CSU took advantage of Butler foul trouble for 10 hits from the line to reclaim the lead before pulling away in the final minutes for the victory.