Bulldogs Head South For Miami Thanksgiving Tournament
The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs open the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday (Nov. 23) in Coral Gables, Fla., when they take on Monmouth beginning at 5:00 p.m. at the BankUnited Center. Butler will be playing for its third win in four games to open the season.
Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler heads into the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament with a 2-1 record on the year after falling at No. 23 Purdue on Nov. 17. The Bulldogs have been turning to the play of their post players to drive the offense in 2007-08 after finishing second in the NCAA Division I with 8.4 three pointers made per game last year. Sophomore forward Susan Lester and junior center Lade Akande have been the top scoring threats on the team, with Lester pacing the squad with 12.7 points per game and Akande averaging 12.0 per contest. Junior guard Candace Jones has been a force on the perimeter, averaging 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has been strong in the first three games of her collegiate career, averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller leads the team with 3.7 assists per game and has added 3.7 points and 2.3 rebounds. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman bring leadership to the floor and add a consistent scoring from outside and rebounding down low. Sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic presence at the post, while junior guard Candyce Brown brings strong defensive prowess on the perimeter. Rookie forwards Chloe Hamilton, Amie Kabara and Jenny Ostrom, as well as freshman guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth.
A Look At The Hawks: Friday's match-up will be the first meeting between Butler and Monmouth, as well as the first game against a Northeast Conference foe for the Bulldogs in their 33-year history. The Hawks tout an 0-3 record on the season after falling to Villanova, 53-39, on Sunday (Nov. 18). Junior guard Marbely Montas leads the team with 9.7 points per game, while junior forward Jennifer Bender touts 7.7 boards per contest. Monmouth was picked to finish fifth in the 2007-08 NEC preseason poll after tying for fourth with a 10-8 league record and 17-12 overall mark in 2006-07.
Rally Falls Short As No. 23 Purdue Tops Bulldogs, 69-53: Fourteen second-half points by sophomore Susan Lester keyed a late come-from-behind attempt by the Bulldogs, but host No. 23 Purdue built up too large of a lead for Butler to overcome in claiming a 69-53 decision at Mackey Arena on Nov. 17. Trailing by 24 at 46-22 with just over 15 minutes to go in the second half, Butler put together a spirited 14-0 run over the ensuing four minutes to cut the deficit to 10 at 46-36. The Bulldogs could get no closer, however, as the Boilermakers reeled off eight-straight points and held no less than a 15-point margin in the final minutes.
A Big Second Effort: Butler never quit after falling behind early to a tough foe in Purdue on Nov. 17, and the stats bare out the resilient character of the team. The Bulldogs' 33 points scored in the second half against the Boilermakers were their most for the squad in any period so far this season. Butler also overcame some first half miscues with the basketball following the break, allowing just three second-period turnovers after falling victim to 13 in the opening stanza.
Making A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. The Bulldogs have been the best in the Horizon League this season when it comes to keeping opponents off the board, ranking first with only 57.7 points allowed per game and third with a .397 opponent field goal percentage.
Bow-en To No One: Freshman guard Brittany Bowen might have only three collegiate games under her belt, but she has been playing like a seasoned vet. The Columbus, Ind., native has started in all three contests this season, ranking third on the squad with 7.3 points per game and second with 4.3 rebounds. Her biggest performance came against some tough competition, as she went 4-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc for 11 points and added six rebounds at No. 23 Purdue on Nov. 17.
Centers Of Attention: The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to shooting the three ever since head coach Beth Couture arrived at the Indianapolis campus, 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 sophomore forward Susan Lester and junior center Lade Akande have provided the bulk of the offense. Lester currently leads the squad with 12.7 points per game, while Akande is not far behind with 12.0 points to her credit.
...But Don't Think The Three Is Out: Just because the Bulldogs feature two of the best post players in the Horizon League doesn't mean they will be eliminating their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is tied for third in the league with 6.0 three pointers made per game and is second with 62 attempts on the year. In fact, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled six.
Three-Point Defense: Adding to the effect of Butler's three-point attack this year has been its ability to keep their opponents from converting long range shots. The Bulldogs rank second in the league by holding their foes to a .250 three-point shooting percentage (7-for-28). In fact, Butler had allowed just two makes in the first two-and-a-half games of the season before yielding a 5-for-7 clip to the Boilermakers in the second half on Nov. 17.
Getting Her Chance: Junior Candace Jones has been one of the Bulldogs' top reserve guards during the last two seasons, coming off the bench in 49 of her 60 games played while serving as a back-up to two-time all-league player Jackie Closser. The graduation of Closser last season left Jones as the favorite to fill the starting spot, and the Indianapolis native has stepped up big for the Bulldogs, averaging 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists this season.
Charitable Work: Sophomore Susan Lester and junior Candace Jones have displayed nearly flawless marksmanship from the free throw line this season. Lester has drained 10-of-11 shots from the charity stripe for a .909 percentage, while Jones has hit 10-of-12 for a .833 mark. Lester's percentage is the third-best in the league, while Jones ranks eighth.
Getting There In A Hurry: Not too many Butler players have had better starts to their careers than Lade Akande. The Robinson, Ill. native was dominant on offense in her first season with the team in 2005-06, finishing with 470 points for the highest total in school history by a freshman. She continued that trend as one of the Bulldogs' top scorers last year, tallying 408 points for 878 in her first two seasons. After tallying 36 points in the Bulldogs' first three games this year, Akande now needs just 86 points to reach 1,000 and is on pace to become the first Butler player since Jennifer Marlow (1998-99) to reach the milestone before her senior season.
Butler Picked Third In Preseason Poll: The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the Horizon League this season, according to the 2007-08 Horizon League Preseason Poll. Butler earned 238 points in the poll, including five first-place votes, and finished just 15 points behind first-place Milwaukee. The poll is voted on by the league's head coaches, sports information directors and media members.
Akande, Lester Named To Preseason Teams: Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester were both named to the 2007-08 Preseason All-Horizon League Teams. Akande earned a spot on the all-league first team, while Lester was tabbed to the all-league second team. Butler was the only school to have multiple players mentioned on the squads.
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 beginning with 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.
An Upward Trend: The Bulldogs have steadily improved under the tutelage of head coach Beth Couture, and the 2006-07 season was the finest yet. The 16 wins gave the Bulldogs their highest single-season total since the 1998-99 squad finished at 17-11. Additionally, Butler's 11 wins in Horizon League play were the most during Couture's tenure, while the second-place finish was the highest final standing since the 1997-98 season.
...And The Wins Should Continue: Head coach Beth Couture recently signed a five-year contract extension 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: Depending upon the outcome of the game
against Monmouth, Butler will take on either Fordham or host Miami
(Fla.) on Saturday (Nov. 24) at the BankUnited Center. A win would
pit the Bulldogs against the winner of the Fordham/Miami game at
7:00 p.m., while a loss sends Butler to face the other loser at