December 3, 2007

Bulldogs Open Four-Game Home Swing Against Oakland City

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GAME 7
Oakland City (3-3) at Butler (5-1)
Monday, Dec. 3 - 7:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs, off to their best start in nine years with a 5-1 record, open up a four-game homestand on Monday (Dec. 3) when they welcome Oakland City to Hinkle Fieldhouse beginning at 7:00 p.m. Butler has claimed wins in its last three contests, including a decisive 83-70 victory over Indiana State on Saturday (Dec. 1).

Start `Em Up: The Bulldogs' 5-1 start to the season is the program's best record through six games since the 1998-99 team opened up at 5-1. A win on Monday, meanwhile, would give the team its best seven-game record since 1994-95, when the Bulldogs began at 7-1.

A Busy Stretch: Butler's game against Oakland City is the second of three games in a six-day span for the Bulldogs. Prior to hosting the Mighty Oaks on Monday (Dec. 3), Butler defeated Indiana State, 83-70, in the State Farm Hoosier Classic on Saturday (Dec. 1) in Valparaiso, Ind. The week concludes on Dec. 6 with the Bulldogs hosting Evansville at 7:00 p.m.

Home Sweet Home: After spending five of the first six games of the season away from Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Bulldogs will spend the next four contests in Indianapolis. Butler opens the homestand against Oakland City on Dec. 3 before taking on Evansville three days later on Dec. 6. Following a break for finals, Butler welcomes Tennessee State to Hinkle on Dec. 16 and closes out the stretch on Dec. 20 against IPFW.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Mighty Oaks on Dec. 3 can be viewed online through the Horizon League Network. The streaming video is available for free and can be accessed at www.ButlerSports.com by clicking on the "Watch" link on the schedule at the bottom of the front page. Live stats of the game will also be available on Gametracker by clicking the link on the schedule.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler (5-1) vies for its fourth-straight win on Monday after drubbing Indiana State, 83-70, in the State Farm Hoosier Classic on Saturday (Dec. 1). The Bulldogs have been one of the top defensive teams in the Horizon League this season, holding opponents to a league-low 59.0 points per game. Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have been the top scoring threats on the team, with Akande pacing the squad with 15.0 points per game and Lester averaging 12.2 per contest. Junior guard Candace Jones has been a force on the perimeter, averaging 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.5 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has played like a vet in the first six games of her collegiate career, averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller has been a staple on the floor, leading the squad with 29.5 minutes per game while averaging 4.7 points and 3.0 assists. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman bring leadership to the floor and add 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 posts Chloe Hamilton and Amie Kabara, as well as freshman guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth.

A Look At The Mighty Oaks: Division II Oakland City, which is located in Oakland City, Ind., just over 30 miles north of Evansville, comes to Indianapolis with a 3-3 record a three-game winning streak after claiming a convincing 85-38 decision over Ohio University-Lancaster on Sunday (Dec. 2) afternoon. The Mighty Oaks have averaged an +11.3 point margin in their six games this season, scoring 72.3 points per game while allowing only 61. Junior guard Karissa Walter has been an all-around threat, leading the team with 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest. Head coach Jessica Mehringer is 17-17 in her second season with Oakland City.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler and Oakland City will be renewing a series that began in 1978-79 but has been inactive since the 1980-81 season. The Bulldogs last win over the Mighty Oaks came in a blow-out 100-40 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler holds a 281-155 combined scoring edge in the three previous meetings.

Butler Tops Indiana State, 83-70: An explosive three-point barrage in the first half followed by strong inside shooting in the second led the way for the Bulldogs, as Butler notched a season-high point total in an 83-70 drubbing of Indiana State in the State Farm Hoosier Classic on Saturday (Dec. 1). With the flurries flying outside of Valparaiso's Athletics-Recreation Center, the threes were flying indoors, as Butler drained 10 treys in the first half to go up, 45-33, at the break. The long-range onslaught would end there, however, as the Bulldogs went without a trey in the second but continued to click on all cylinders inside the arc to build up as much as a 20-point lead and hold on for the win. Lade Akande led the team with 20 points, while Susan Lester (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Candace Jones (14 points, 10 rebounds) tallied the Bulldogs' first double-doubles of the year.

Akande Nets Third League Honor: The trend of dominance continued for Lade Akande this weekend, as the 6-1 junior center was named the Horizon League's Player of the Week for the third time in four weeks on Monday (Dec. 3). Akande led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fifth time in six games last weekend, notching a game-high 20 points in just 23 minutes on 9-for-18 shooting from the field against Indiana State on Dec. 1. She also tied her season-high with nine rebounds to finish just shy of a double-double.

Half From Outside: The Bulldogs put together one of the program's most impressive long-range shooting performances this season, and it only took them 20 minutes. Butler drained a season-high 10 three pointers against Indiana State in the first half alone, going 10-for-18 from beyond the arc (55.6 percent) to build up a commanding 45-33 lead over the Sycamores at the break. Junior Candyce Brown led the way with a 3-for-3 mark from downtown, while senior Cassie Freeman, junior Candace Jones and sophomore Susan Lester each nailed two apiece.

...And Half From Inside: Butler appeared to be well on its way to breaking the school's single-game record of 15 three pointers with 10 in the first half against ISU, but the long range barrage would not continue as the Bulldogs went without a three (0-for-4) in the second period. That mattered little, however, as Butler turned to inside scoring to build up as much as 20-point advantage with a minute left in the contest.

What Can Brown Do For You?: Junior guard Candyce Brown was at the center of the Bulldogs' three-point clinic against Indiana State on Dec. 1, going 4-for-4 from the field with three treys to finish with a career-best 11 points. She also paced the squad with five assists and forced a pair of steals.

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 90 points in the Bulldogs' first six games this year, Akande now needs just 32 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.

Taking A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. The Bulldogs have been among the best in the Horizon League this season when it comes to keeping opponents off the board, leading the league with only 59.0 points allowed per game and ranking fifth with a .404 opponent field goal percentage. Butler is also fifth in the conference with 2.5 blocks per contest and tied for fifth with 9.2 steals per game.

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 ranked 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 and ranks fourth in the league with 15.0 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 11th in the conference with 12.2 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 have eliminated their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is third in the league with 6.8 three pointers made per game and is second with 121 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 11.

...And How About That 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 lead the league by holding their foes to a .263 three-point shooting percentage (21-for-80) while allowing just 3.5 treys per game, nearly half of Butler's current average. In fact, in their first two games of the year, the Bulldogs held foes Ohio (1-for-9) and Bradley (1-for-5) to just one three-pointer each.

Accuracy Counts: Butler's three-point attack features two of the most accurate shooters in the Horizon League. Freshman Brittany Bowen leads the league with a .636 three-point percentage (7-for-11), while junior Candace Jones is second with a .545 percentage (6-for-11).

Charitable Work: Junior Candace Jones and sophomore Susan Lester have been two of the most reliable free throw shooters in the Horizon League this season. Jones has hit 17-of-21 from the line and ranks fifth in the league with a .810 percentage, while Lester has converted 14-of-18 for an eighth-place .778 percentage.

Passing With Flying Colors: Junior guard Tara Miller has been one of the Bulldogs' best passers this season, ranking second on the team with 3.0 assists per contest. Meanwhile, she has only turned the ball over on five occasions and leads the league with an impressive 3.60 assists to turnover ratio. Her mark is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.93 assists to turnover ratio as a team.

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 to fill the starting spot this year, and the Indianapolis native has done an outstanding job, averaging 9.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.5 assists.

Bow-en To No One: Freshman guard Brittany Bowen might only be in her first year, but she has been playing like a seasoned vet. The Columbus, Ind., native has started in all six contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 6.2 points per game and third with 4.5 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.

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.

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 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.

Next Up: Butler plays its third game in a six-day stretch on Thursday (Dec. 6) when it welcomes Evansville to Hinkle Fieldhouse for a 7:00 p.m. contest.