Bulldogs Battle Purple Aces On Wednesday
Butler (1-4) at Evansville (4-1)
Wednesday, Dec. 3 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Roberts Stadium - Evansville, Ind.
The Opening Tip: Butler returns to the Hoosier State this week when it takes on Evansville on Wednesday (Dec. 3) beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT) at Roberts Stadium in Evansville, Ind. Coming off a tough pair of games at the Holiday Inn & Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament last weekend, the Bulldogs will try to get back on the win column when it takes on a Purple Aces team that has won its last three contests.
On The Web: The Bulldogs' game against Evansville will feature free live statistics and audio through the Purple Aces' official athletics website, www.GoPurpleAces.com. Live video is also available online and costs $5.95 on a pay-per-view basis. All three features can be accessed by clicking on the appropriate link next to the Evansville game on the women's basketball schedule page at www.ButlerSports.com.
The Bulldogs At A Glance: Butler enters it's game at Evansville with a 1-4 record on the year after falling in the consolation game of the Holiday Inn & Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday (Nov. 29). The Bulldogs have battled through a tough opening part of the non-league slate that featured three teams that advanced to post season play last year, including nationally-ranked Ohio State in the season-opener. A trio of post players has provided the bulk of the Bulldogs' scoring and rebounding this year, with junior forward Melanie Thornton (13.0 points, 9.8 rebounds), senior center Lade Akande (12.2, 6.0) and junior forward Susan Lester (8.8, 5.6) ranking as the top three on the team in both categories. The perimeter players have stepped up their play in recent games, as sophomore Brittany Bowen (5.6 points), senior Tara Miller (3.4) and freshman Devin Brierly (3.2) have combined for 11 of the team's 19 three-pointers this season. Senior guard Candace Jones, sophomore guard Terra Burns and senior guard Candyce Brown have each added to the outside scoring, while sophomore guard Azjah Bass and sophomore forward Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.
A Look At Evansville: The Purple Aces head into Wednesday's contest with a 4-1 record on the year after winning their last three games, including back-to-back wins over UAB (62-47) and Samford (58-54, 2OT) in claiming the Samford-UAB Classic title this past weekend. UE has averaged 65.4 points per game this year and has out-scored their opponents by an average of 8.3 points in its four wins. Four players average double-figure points, including senior forward Robyn Jennings' team-high 13.8 points. Jennings also paces the squad with 7.8 rebounds per contest, while junior guard Amy Gallagher leads the way with 3.0 assists per game.
The Match-Up: Butler will face Evansville for the 35th time in program history this week, with the Bulldogs holding a 19-15 edge in the all-time series that dates back to a 61-46 Butler win during the 1979-80 season. After winning four of the first five meetings, the Bulldogs came up on the short-end in nine of the next 10 contests before scoring victories in 11 of the ensuing 12 games, including the final six in a row before the Aces left the Horizon League after the 1993-94 series. Evansville holds a 4-3 edge in the seven games played since the series resumed in 2000-01, with the Bulldogs winning the most recent battle in 2007-08.
Last Year Against Evansville: Susan Lester scored a career-high 28 points, including 24 in the second half, and Lade Akande tallied the 1,000th point of her career as the Bulldogs held on down the stretch to claim a hard-fought, 81-75, victory over Evansville on Dec. 6. Butler jumped out to several large leads in the contest only to have the Purple Aces get right back into the game, but the Bulldogs converted eight of 10 free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Azjah Bass added 15 points off the bench, while Candace Jones chipped in 10.
William & Mary Tops Bulldogs: Butler rallied from an 11-point first-half deficit to take as much as a six-point advantage late in the second period over William and Mary, but a costly dry spell in the final five minutes of play allowed the Tribe to regain the lead and hold on for a 53-50 decision in the consolation game of the Holiday Inn & Suites Express Midtown Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday (Nov. 29) evening at The Pit. Susan Lester finished a rebound shy of her second double-double of the year, while Melanie Thornton led the team in rebounds for the fifth time in as many games.
Battle-Tested: Butler's game at Evansville on Wednesday will be its fourth game of the year against a team that reached postseason play in 2007-08. Before it's all said and done, Butler will take on eight such opponents this season, including Cleveland State, Dayton, Evansville, Green Bay, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska and Ohio State.
In Elite Company: Senior center Lade Akande has assembled one of the finest careers in school history during her three-plus years on the team. In fact, just last weekend, she accomplished something that only three other Butler players have ever done. Her five rebounds against William & Mary gave pushed her career rebounding total to 603, making her just the fourth player in Bulldogs history to record over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in their career.
Thorn-ton In Their Side: It may only be five 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. The following weekend, she notched her second career double-double with 11 points and 10 boards against Nebraska on Nov. 28 and adding a 10-rebound performance against William & Mary on Nov. 29. Her 13.0 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest are tops on the team, as are her 30.6 minutes played. Last season, Thornton averaged 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds while playing 6.2 minutes per game.
...And Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance in the first five games not only has her ranked at the top of the team's stats but also have her among the best in the Horizon League. She finds herself listed in the league's top-10 in five categories, including a first-place ranking in rebounds and a second-place mark in steals.
Highway Robbery: Thornton's 20 steals in five games this season are easily the most on the team and are just one away from equaling the 21 picks she recorded in her entire first two seasons combined.
Quite A Start: Through just five games this season, Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 49 rebounds this season are already two more than she pulled in during her entire 2007-08 season, while her 153 minutes played top her previous year's mark by five minutes. Meanwhile, her 65 points are just eight shy of matching her 73 scored last season.
Moving Up The Scoring List: Lade Akande continues her ascent up the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. After scoring seven points against William & Mary on Nov. 29, she touts 1,421 points in her career: the fifth-most all-time after passing both Sue Morris (1,375) and Beth Piepenbrink (1,378) two weeks earlier. She is now just 28 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.
...Among Other Lists: After pulling in 30 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande moved up into ninth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart with 603, passing both Julie Schrader (591) and Kelly Kuhn (593). Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including field goals made (585 - 5th) and blocks (112 - 5th).
1,000 On The Radar: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 712 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at 10th with 82.
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. Since then, she has drained three more treys and is currently tied for the team lead. 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.
Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs in their first five games of the year. Butler has averaged just 12.6 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 fewest turnovers per game and is 2.1 per game fewer than their next closest rival (UIC - 14.7 per game).
Effective Assistance: Butler's 1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the Horizon League and is just .17 behind league-leading UIC (1.20 to 1.03). The Bulldogs have dished 65 assists and allowed just 63 miscues on the year.
...From Effective Helpers: Four Bulldog players find themselves ranked in the Horizon League's top-10 list in assist-to-turnover ratio heading into Saturday's game. Freshman Devin Brierly leads the team and ranks tied for second in the league with a 3.0 A/T ratio (12 assists, 4 turnovers) while senior Tara Miller (10, 5) and sophomore Azjah Bass (4, 2) are tied for fifth with a 2.0 A/T ratio. Senior Candyce Brown (5, 3) rounds out the list of Bulldogs in ninth with a 1.7 A/T ratio.
The Leading Candidate: Melanie Thornton has been the Bulldogs' top rebounder this season, leading the squad in all five games this year. Her 13 at IPFW were a career-high and are tied for the second-best single-game total in the Horizon League this year.
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 on ESPNU.
Butler Basketball On The Web: Twenty-three of the Bulldogs' games this season will feature free 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 was carried on the online network.
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.
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.
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.
Butler Tabbed Fifth In Preseason Poll: Butler 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. 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: Butler returns to Hinkle Fieldhouse
for the first time since opening the home season on Nov. 21 when it
battles first-time foe Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 6,
beginning at 2:00 p.m.