November 24, 2007

Butler Battles Host Hurricanes For Tournament Title

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GAME 5
Butler (3-1) at Miami (2-2)
November 24, 2007 - 7:00 p.m. ET
BankUnited Center - Coral Gables, Fla.

The Opening Tip: Butler (3-1) vies for the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament title on Saturday (Nov. 24) as it battles the host Hurricanes (2-2) in the championship game beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET at the BankUnited Center.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Live stats from Butler's game at Miami can be followed online for free via Gametracker and can be accessed by going to www.ButlerSports.com and clicking on the Gametracker link on the calendar at the bottom of the page.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler enters the final game of the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament with a 3-1 record on the year after claiming a 63-52 victory over Monmouth on Friday (Nov. 23). 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. Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have been the top scoring threats on the team, with Akande pacing the squad with 12.8 points per game and Lester averaging 11.3 per contest. Junior guard Candace Jones has been a force on the perimeter, averaging 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has played like a vet in the first four games of her collegiate career, averaging 7.0 points and 5.3 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller is tied for the team lead with 3.3 assists per game and has added 5.0 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 and rebounding off the bench. 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 Hurricanes: Saturday's contest at Miami will be just the second meeting between the two schools in women's basketball. The Bulldogs fell in the lone match-up by a score of 70-55 in the 1996 Miami Tournament in Coral Gables. This year's Hurricanes boast a 2-2 record after defeating Fordham, 57-40, in the tournament's second game on Friday (Nov. 23). Miami has been strong on the boards, pulling in 44.2 per game, and has added a threat from long range with 6.8 three-pointers per contest. Senior guard Maurita Reid is the only Hurricane player averaging double-figure points with 15.8 points per game thanks in part to 12 three pointers and has added 8.0 boards per game.

Second-Half Surge Leads Bulldogs Past Monmouth: A 13-0 run to start the second half, keyed by seven points from Lade Akande and a pair of treys from Tara Miller, helped the Bulldogs pull away for a 63-52 victory over Monmouth in the opening game of the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 23 at the BankUnited Center. Akande went 6-for-11 in the game to finish with a team-high 15 points and added eight rebounds and four blocks. Candace Jones added 12 points and a team-high six assists, while Mille chipped in nine points, all on three-pointers.

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, leading the league with only 56.2 points allowed per game and fourth with a .385 opponent field goal percentage.

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 junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have provided the bulk of the offense. Akande currently leads the squad with 12.8 points per game, while Lester is not far behind with 11.3 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 third in the league with 6.3 three pointers made per game and is second with 80 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 seven.

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 .267 three-point shooting percentage (12-for-45). In fact, Butler has allowed just 3.0 treys per game, less than half of the Bulldogs current average, and held foes Ohio and Bradley to just one each.

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 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.3 assists this season.

Bow-en To No One: Freshman guard Brittany Bowen might have only four collegiate games under her belt, but she has been playing like a seasoned vet. The Columbus, Ind., native has started in all four contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 7.0 points per game and second with 5.3 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.

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 12-of-15 for a .800 mark. Lester's percentage is the second-best in the league, while Jones is tied for seventh.

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 51 points in the Bulldogs' first four games this year, Akande now needs just 71 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: Butler gets a seven-day break from competition next week before heading to Valparaiso, Ind., on Saturday (Dec. 1) to battle Indiana State in the opening game of the State Farm Hoosier Classic beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET at Valpo's Athletics-Recreation Center.