December 18, 2007

Bulldogs Tangle With IPFW For Seventh-Straight Victory

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GAME 10
IPFW (4-4) at Butler (8-1)
December 20, 2007 - 12:00 noon ET
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler (8-1) aims for its seventh win in a row on Thursday (Dec. 20) when it concludes a four-game homestand at Hinkle Fieldhouse with a matinee contest against IPFW beginning at 12:00 noon. Off to their best start since the 1990-91 squad opened the year at 10-0, the Bulldogs are 4-0 at home this season and hold a 12-point scoring edge over their foes in games played at Hinkle.

We're Going Streaking!: The Bulldogs' six-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 Mastodons 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 goes for its seventh-straight win on Thursday after battling for a 72-62 victory over Tennessee State on Dec. 16. After relying on a strong defense at the start of the year, the Bulldogs have turned to a powerful offense in the last four games, averaging 78.2 points per game in that span. Butler has also been the best in the Horizon League at taking care of the basketball, touting a league-leading 1.04 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who became the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 points on Dec. 6, has been the biggest offensive culprit on the team this season with a team-high 16.7 points per game. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.3 points and a team-best 6.9 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 8.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 4.0 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has chipped in 6.2 points and 3.4 boards per game in her rookie season. Junior forward Tara Miller has added 4.8 points and 3.0 assists per game and leads the league with a 3.00 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. Head coach Beth Couture (73-82) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Mastodons: IPFW invades Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 4-4 overall record after falling at Duquesne, 83-74, on Sunday (Dec. 16). Prior to that, the Mastodons had won four of the previous five games, including victories over Miami (Ohio), Southern Utah and UMKC. The offense averages over 70 points per game thanks in part to heavy perimeter shooting that has scored 7.1 three pointers per game while taking nearly 23 three-point shots per contest. Senior guard Johnna Lewis-Carlisle is the far-and-away team leader in scoring, averaging 21.5 points per game, while sophomore forward Samantha Edwards boasts a team-best 6.1 rebounds per contest. Head coach Chris Paul (22-35) is in his third year at IPFW.

The Match-Up At A Glance: The Mastodons hold a 3-2 series edge over the Bulldogs dating back 1976-77, when the Butler women's basketball program was in just its second year. IPFW claimed a 64-46 decision in that first meeting before notching an 87-58 triumph during the 1983-84 season. Since becoming reclassified as Division I prior to 2001-02, IPFW has dropped two of the last three meetings against Butler, falling in 2004-05 and 2005-06 before claiming an 82-75 decision last year in Fort Wayne.

The Last Time vs. IPFW: Susan Lester paced Butler with a double-double, but the Bulldogs were unable to quell a strong offensive output by IPFW as the Mastodons took an 82-75 decision at the Hilliard Gates Sports Center on Jan. 20, 2007. The Bulldogs had to play comeback late, rallying from an eight-point second-half deficit to take a two-point advantage with four minutes left in regulation, but Ashley Johnson and Johnna Lewis-Carlisle carried the Mastodons down the stretch to secure the win. Lester finished with 21 points and 11 boards, Jackie Closser posted 19 points and Lade Akande and Cassie Freeman each added nine points.

Butler Fends Off Tigers, 72-62: Susan Lester notched her second double-double of the year with 14 points and 13 boards, Lade Akande tallied a game-high 23 points and the Bulldogs took advantage of 27 Tennessee State miscues to claim a 72-62 victory on Dec. 16 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. TSU shot 50 percent from the field, including 5-of-10 from three-point, but the Bulldogs converted 27 Tiger turnovers into 22 points to help power the offense. Butler, meanwhile, only allowed 10 points off 13 miscues and shot 42.6 percent from the field.

The National Spotlight: The Bulldogs find themselves listed among the top teams in Division I in eight statistical categories, according to the latest NCAA statistics from Dec. 16. Two Butler players are ranked in the national standings, with Tara Miller placing in a tie for fifth with a 3.00 assists-to-turnovers ratio, while Lade Akande checks in at 47th with a 54.6 field goal percentage. As a team, Butler is listed in six statistical categories, including top-20 rankings in win-loss percentage (.889 - T-17th) and assists-to-turnovers ratio (1.04 - 20th).

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of it's best basketball in the second period this year. In nine games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged over five points more in the second period than the first (36.2 to 31.1). Butler has also averaged only 5.8 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.3 in the first (-3.5 difference), which is a big reason why the Bulldogs are 20th in the nation with a 1.04 assists-to-turnovers ratio.

Moving Up The List: It didn't take long for junior Lade Akande to begin her ascent up the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. The Robinson, Ill., native needed just one 23-point game to go from 19th to 17th all-time with 1,028 and now needs just four points to pass Nancy Bowden (1,031) for 16th place. Akande became the 19th player in school history with 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville. 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 already been a regular among the Horizon League's Player of the Week recipients, winning three of the six honors presented this year. No other player in the league has earned the award more than once. 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 16.7 points per game and 47th in the nation with a .546 field goal percentage.

Passing With Flying Colors: A big reason why the Bulldogs lead the Horizon League and rank 20th in the country with a 1.04 assists-to-turnovers ratio this season has been due to the play of Tara Miller and Candace Jones. The duo ranks in the Horizon League's top five in A/T ratio, with Miller touting a league-best 3.00 and Jones checking in at fourth place with a 1.38. Not surprisingly, the tandem also finds themselves among the top-10 in the league in assists per game, with Jones ranking third at 4.0 per contest and Miller in a ninth-place tie with 3.0 per game.

Centers Of Attention: The Bulldogs have had a history of being among the best teams in the nation in three-point shooting ever since head coach Beth Couture arrived in Indianapolis, 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 and is third in the league with 16.7 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 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 and tied for 45th in the nation with 6.4 three pointers made per game. In fact, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 15.

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 .611 three-point percentage (11-for-18), while sophomore Susan Lester ranks 13th with a .357 percentage (15-for-42).

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 59.7 points allowed per game and ranking fourth with a .405 opponent field goal percentage. Butler is also third in the conference with 3.2 blocks per game and 9.9 steals per contest.

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 fifth in the league with a .821 percentage, while Lester has converted 33-of-42 for a sixth-place .786 percentage.

That's What I Call Bench Support: The Bulldogs have received some outstanding performances from bench players during their current six-game winning streak. 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 big-time 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.

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 nine contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 6.2 points and 3.4 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, with the 2006-07 season proving to be the finest yet. The 16 wins the team's 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. The Bulldogs are well on their way to continuing the successful trend this season, boasting a league-best 8-1 record.

...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 takes a break for the holidays before opening what will amount to a four-game road swing over a three-week span. The Bulldogs kick off the trip in Muncie, Ind., on Saturday, Dec. 28 when they take on Ball State beginning at 3:00 p.m.