November 26, 2008

Bulldogs Battle Nebraska In Albuquerque On Friday

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GAME 4
Butler (1-2) vs. Nebraska (4-0)
Holiday Inn & Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament
Friday, Nov. 28 - 7:00 p.m. ET
The Pit - Albuquerque, N.M.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs travel to Albuquerque, N.M., this weekend when it takes part in the Holiday Inn & Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament, hosted by the University of New Mexico. Butler opens up the tournament against undefeated Nebraska on Friday (Nov. 28) beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. MT) in The Pit. The Bulldogs will then face either the host Lobos or William and Mary the following evening (Nov. 29) at either 7:00 p.m. ET or 9:00 p.m. ET.

The Bulldogs At A Glance: Butler carries a 1-2 record on the year into Friday's contest against the Huskers after falling in its home opener to Dayton, 69-49, on Nov. 21. Junior forward Melanie Thornton has provided the biggest spark for the Bulldogs, pacing the team with 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest. Senior Lade Akande (14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds) and junior Susan Lester (8.0, 5.7) have added to the post players' success as starters in all three games. Rookie guard Devin Brierly has shown signs of becoming a strong offensive threat on the perimeter, averaging 4.3 points per contest with a team-high three treys and seven assists. Senior guard Candace Jones has chipped in 5.3 points per game, while senior forward Tara Miller and sophomore guard Brittany Bowen have each added 3.0 points. Sophomore guard Terra Burns has recorded 2.0 rebounds per game in three starts this season. Senior guard Candyce Brown, sophomore guard Azjah Bass and sophomore forward Chloe Hamilton have added depth off the bench.

A Look At Nebraska: The Huskers head into Friday's contest with a perfect 4-0 record on the year after topping Denver, 76-55, on Monday (Nov. 24). Nebraska has out-scored its opponents by an average of 20.8 points per game this year, hitting 43.5 percent (108-of-248) from the field and 41 percent (34-of-83) from three-point range. Junior forward Cory Montgomery leads the team with 16.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, while Dominique Kelly paces the squad with 4.0 assists per contest. Nebraska, which has received 11 votes in the most recent USA Today ESPN Coaches' Poll, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season to finish with a 21-12 overall record in 2007-08.

Battle-Tested: Butler's game against Nebraska will be the Bulldogs' third contest of the year against a team that reached postseason play in 2007-08. Butler will take on as many as nine such opponents this season, including Cleveland State, Dayton, Evansville, Green Bay, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska, New Mexico and Ohio State.

Bring `Em Back: Butler returns 11 of 13 letterwinners from 2007-08, accounting for 91 percent of its scoring, 91 percent of its rebounding and 92 percent of its assists.

The Last Time Out: Melanie Thornton continued her torrid start to the season - leading the team with 18 points and eight rebounds - while Lade Akande chipped in 16 points and seven boards, but visiting Dayton shot 48.9 percent from the field as a team while holding Butler to just 29 percent in spoiling the Bulldogs' opener with a 69-49 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday (Nov. 21) evening. Thornton finished the night with a 6-for-11 effort from the field and 5-for-7 from the line, while her 18 points tied her career-best total which she set in the season opener at Ohio State on Nov. 14.

Thorn-ton In Their Side: It may only be three games into the year, but junior forward Melanie Thornton is off to easily the best start of her career. After posting a career-best 18 points and seven steals against a tough Ohio State team on Nov. 14, the Carmel, Ind., native registered her first collegiate double-double at IPFW on Nov. 18, finishing with 12 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. She followed that performance by matching her season and career-high scoring total with 18 points against Dayton on Nov. 21. Her 16.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per contest are tops on the team, while her 30.3 minutes played also lead the squad. Last season, Thornton averaged 3.0 points in 6.2 minutes of play per game.

...And Among The League's Best: Thornton's performances in the first three games not only have her ranked at the top of the team's stats but also have her among the best in the Horizon League. Thornton finds herself listed in the league's top-10 in nine categories, including second-place rankings in rebounds and steals. She also ranks sixth in scoring.

Quite A Start: Through just three games this season, Melanie Thornton is well over halfway to matching her entire season total from 2007-08. Her 48 total points are just 25 shy of matching her 73 scored last season, while her 29 rebounds are 18 away from her 47 boards as a sophomore. A big key to her success has been her increase in playing time, as her team-best 91 minutes played are only 57 short of her entire time on the floor last year.

A Sign Of Things To Come: Freshman guard Devin Brierly didn't waste too much time to get started on her college career. The Hanover, Ind., native notched her first collegiate points against Ohio State on Nov. 14 hitting her second three-point attempt of the game a little over three minutes after subbing in. Four days later at IPFW, she drained a pair of treys during a critical second-half stretch to finish with 10 points while helping the Bulldogs to their first win of the year. Brierly finished her prep career at Southwestern High School with 1,278 points - the fourth-most in school history - and was presented with the team's 3-Point Award all four seasons.

The Leading Candidate: Melanie Thornton has been the Bulldogs' top rebounder this season, leading the squad in all three games this year. Her 13 at IPFW were a career-high and are tied for the most in the Horizon League this year.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs in their first three games of the year. Butler has averaged just 10.7 turnovers per game so far this season, including season-low nine at IPFW. The Bulldogs' average puts themselves at the top of the league standings in turnovers per game and is 3.3 per game fewer than their next closest rival (UIC - 14.0 per game).

...And Passing Well: Butler's 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio leads the Horizon League and is 0.1 assists higher than runner-up UIC's total (1.2). The Bulldogs have dished 41 assists and allowed just 32 miscues.

Moving Up The List: Senior Lade Akande continues her ascent up the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. With 16 points against Dayton on Nov. 21, the Robinson, Ill., native touts 1,402 points in her career, which ranks as the fifth-most all-time after passing both Sue Morris (1,375) and Beth Piepenbrink (1,378) a week earlier. She is now just 47 points away from passing Barb Skinner's fourth-place total of 1,448, set from 1980-83. 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 Jennifer Marlow in 1997-98.

Next In Line?: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 692 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players.

In Elite Company: Lade Akande not only ranks among the top Butler scorers, but she is also fourth on the Butler charts with 112 career blocks. Additionally, with 592 career rebounds, she is eight boards shy of becoming just the fourth Bulldog player ever with at least 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in her career. Akande currently ranks second on the team with 6.3 rebounds per game.

Getting Started: Sophomore guard Terra Burns earned her first collegiate start at Ohio State on Nov. 14 and played a career-high 20 minutes with two rebounds and an assist. After recording three rebounds and three assists in her second start at IPFW, she scored a career-best three points on her first collegiate three-pointer in a start against Dayton on Nov. 21. The Peoria, Ill., native came off the bench in 16 games as a freshman in 2007-08, averaging 4.4 minutes per contest.

National Attention: The Butler women's basketball team will get national attention later in the season, as the Bulldogs' game against Wright State on Feb. 6 will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 9 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It will be the fourth time in four seasons Butler will appear on the ESPN network. The Bulldogs' appearance in the 2007 Horizon League Championship game against Green Bay was broadcast live on ESPNU, while Butler's regular season road games against the Phoenix last spring and during the 2005-06 campaign were both carried on ESPNU.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Twenty-three of the Bulldogs' games this season will feature live streaming video online. The Horizon League Network will feature 21 of those contests, including all of Butler's home games and every league road game. Additionally, the Bulldogs' match at Indiana will be streamed at BigTenNetwork.com, while its contest at Ohio State last weekend was carried on the online network.

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

National Recognition For Passing: Tara Miller found herself among the best in the country when it came to handling the ball during the 2007-08 campaign. 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 from Jan. 14 to the end of the year, including a 25-day stint from Jan. 14 to Feb. 7 at the top of the NCAA charts. This season, she is tied for ninth in the Horizon League with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5.

Candace And Candyce: Different spellings but the same pronunciation -- and the same results. The Bulldogs received quite a few assists from the steady hands of guards Candace Jones and Candyce Brown during the 2007-08 season. 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 during the 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.

Talented Rookie Tandem: Butler newcomers Devin Brierly and Kaley May will both be expected to make significant contributions in their first seasons with the team. Brierly, a 5-9 guard from Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind., was a McDonald's All-America nominee, while May, a 5-11 guard/forward from Avon (Ind.) High School, was also nominated for the national award.

Butler Tabbed Fifth In Preseason Poll: The Butler women's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Horizon League regular season this year according to the league's preseason poll. The Bulldogs received a total of 204 points in the poll as well as one first-place vote. Green Bay, last year's regular season champion, was the poll's top vote getter, garnering 284 total points and 24 of the 29 first-place ballots. Wright State (241 point, 1 first place vote) edged out Milwaukee (240, 2) for second place overall, while 2008 Horizon League tournament champion Cleveland State (228, 1) checked in at fourth-place.

Akande, Lester Earn Preseason Honors: For the fourth-straight season, a pair of Bulldogs earned spots on the Preseason All-Horizon League teams, as senior center Lade Akande was named to the all-league first team and junior forward Susan Lester was tabbed to the second team. Akande, a native of Robinson, Ill., earns mention on the preseason squads for the third-straight season, while Lester, a native of Anderson, Ind., receives the honor for the second time in as many years.

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 were also the most in a single season during head coach Beth Couture's six years at the helm.

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 in the fall of 2009.

Next Up: A win over Nebraska on Friday (Nov. 28) would send the Bulldogs into the championship game of the tournament against the winner between the host Lobos and William & Mary on Saturday (Nov. 29) at 9:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. MT) in The Pit. A defeat, meanwhile, would match up Butler with the loser of the UNM-W&M contest beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. MT) on Nov. 29.