Butler Battles Tennessee State For Sixth-Straight Win On Sunday

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GAME 9
Tennessee State (3-6) at Butler (7-1)
Sunday, Dec. 16 - 3:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler returns from a nine-day break for finals on Sunday (Dec. 16) when it hosts Tennessee State at Hinkle Fieldhouse beginning at 3:00 p.m. The Bulldogs (7-1) will be playing for their sixth win in a row and their best start since the 1990-91 team won its first 10 games of the season against the Tigers (3-6) .

Speaking Of Great Starts: The 1978-79 Butler team holds the school record for best winning percentage in a season, going 23-1 to win 95.8 percent of its games. In fact, that year's squad won the first 23 games it played before falling in the postseason.

We're Going Streaking!: The Bulldogs' five-game winning streak is the program's longest since the 1997-98 team reeled-off 15-straight from Jan. 10 to March 6, 1998.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Tigers can be viewed online via 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 (7-1) goes for its sixth-straight win on Dec. 16 after holding off a fierce Evansville team on Thursday (Dec. 6) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. After relying on a strong defense at the start of the year, the Bulldogs have turned to a powerful offense in the last three games, averaging 80.3 points per game in that span. Junior center Lade Akande, who became the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 points last week, has been the biggest offensive culprit on the team this season with a team-high 15.9 points per game. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.3 points and a team-best 6.1 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-leading 15 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has added strong play in the first eight games of her collegiate career, averaging 6.1 points and 3.8 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller has added 5.0 points and 2.9 assists per game and leads the league with a 2.88 assists-to-turnovers ratio. 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 Tigers: Tennessee State comes to Indianapolis with a 3-6 record after splitting a pair of Ohio Valley Conference games last week, including a 61-49 triumph over Southeast Missouri on Dec. 6. The Tigers derive a large portion of their 62.4 points per game from inside the arc, converting only 32 of their 226 field goals (14.2 percent) from long range. Junior guard Kendra Appling leads the squad with 16.8 points per game, while junior forward Obiageli Okafor has totalled 14.2 points and a team-high 8.1 boards per contest. Head coach Tracee (Jones) Wells is 21-71 in her third season with TSU.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler and Tennessee State will be meeting for just the second time as women's basketball foes and for the first time in Hinkle Fieldhouse when the two squads square off on Dec. 16. The Bulldogs received 19 points in 19 minutes from Lade Akande and 12 points from Tara Miller in claiming a convincing 85-57 victory over the Tigers at the Gentry Center last year (Dec. 20). Butler shot 45.5 percent from the field and drained eight three-pointers while holding TSU to just 35.8 percent and a pair of treys.

Butler Notches Fifth-Straight Against Aces: 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.

Quite A Half: Butler certainly racked up the points in the second half against Evansville on Dec. 6, scoring a single-period season-high 47 in the final 20 minutes thanks in part to five three pointers and a 20-for-25 clip from the line. Sophomore Susan Lester ended up causing most of the damage in the period, tallying 24 of her career-best 28 points in the second stanza by going 6-for-9 from the field with three treys and 9-of-11 from the free throw line. In fact, her 24 second-half points accounted for nearly 60 percent of the team's scoring in that period.

That's What I Call Bench Support: The Bulldogs have received some outstanding performances from bench players in the last three contests. Junior Candyce Brown had a career day against Indiana State on Dec. 1, going 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc to post a lifetime-best 11 points. Two days later, sophomore Melanie Thornton provided a boost off the bench with a career-high 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting against Oakland City on Dec. 3. Freshman Azjah Bass made the most recent reserve contribution, going 4-for-7 from the field with three treys and a 4-of-4 mark from the line to notch 15 points against Evansville on Dec. 6.

Player Of The Week Percentage: You won't find it on any of the Horizon League's statistics lists, but if it was, Lade Akande would be the hands-down league leader. The 6-1 center has dominated the Horizon League's Player of the Week awards in 2007-08, winning three of the five honors presented this year. After being recognized the first week of the season (Nov. 14), Akande took home the award in weeks three (Nov. 26) and four (Dec. 3). She currently ranks third in the league with 15.9 points per game.

One Grand 1,000: A lay-up with 1:32 left to play in the first period against Evansville placed Lade Akande in rare company with over 1,000 points in her career. The Robinson, Ill., native is just the 19th player in school history to eclipse the scoring mark and is the first Butler player to reach the milestone before her senior season since Jennifer Marlow in 1997-98.

...And Looking Ahead: Now that she has breached the milestone, Lade Akande can begin her ascent up the Butler all-time scoring chart. With 1,005 points scored in her career to date, Akande can pass both Liesl Schultz (1,019) and Sarah Armington (1,022) for 17th on the all-time list with just 18 more points.

Home Sweet Home: After spending five of the first six games of the season away from Hinkle Fieldhouse, Butler will spend four-straight contests in Indianapolis. The Bulldogs claimed wins in the first two games of the homestand, topping Oakland City (Dec. 3) and Evansville (Dec. 6). Following a break for finals, Butler hosts Tennessee State on Dec. 16 and closes out the stretch on Dec. 20 against IPFW. The Bulldogs are 3-0 this year when playing at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

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 59.4 points allowed per game and ranking fourth with a .394 opponent field goal percentage. Butler is also tied for third in the conference with 3.0 blocks per game and is fourth with 9.6 steals per contest.

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 is third in the league with 15.9 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and tied for eighth in the conference with 13.3 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 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 152 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 15.

...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 rank third in the league by holding their foes to a .291 three-point shooting percentage (34-of-117) while allowing just 4.3 treys per game, two-and-a-half fewer than Butler's 6.8 per game 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 .643 three-point percentage (9-for-14), while sophomore Susan Lester ranks 15th with a .375 percentage (15-for-40).

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 23-of-28 from the line and is sixth in the league with a .821 percentage, while Lester has converted 27-of-33 for a seventh-place .818 percentage.

Passing With Flying Colors: A big reason why the Bulldogs lead the Horizon League with a 0.97 assists-to-turnover ratio this season has been due to the play of Tara Miller. The junior guard ranks second on the team with 23 assists (2.9 per game) and has committed only eight turnovers to lead the league with a 2.88 assists-to-turnover ratio. Her mark would also rank 12th in the NCAA Division I standings, but she falls just short of the 3.0 assists per game minimum required to make the list.

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 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 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 eight contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. 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 closes out its four-game homestand on Thursday (Dec. 20) when it hosts IPFW beginning at 12:00 noon at Hinkle Fieldhouse.