January 1, 2010

Butler Begins New Year At Home Against Milwaukee

HOLIDAY GAMES:  Butler will try to start the new year the same way it ended the old one when it hosts Horizon League foe Milwaukee on Saturday, Jan. 2.  The 2 p.m. (ET) game, Butler’s second at Hinkle Fieldhouse in less than 48 hours, will be the first “Game of the Week” on the Horizon League Network.  The Bulldogs are coming off a New Year’s Eve victory at home over previous league-leader Green Bay, 72-49.  That win gave Butler (9-4) sole possession of first place in the young Horizon League race and left the Bulldogs as the last team with an unbeaten (2-0) league record.  The victory also lifted the Bulldogs to 12-2 in games following a loss under head coach Brad Stevens.  Milwaukee (8-6, 1-2 Horizon League) dropped a 55-54 decision at Valparaiso on Thursday (Dec. 31).  The Panthers, who defeated Butler in the last meeting between the two teams a year ago, had won seven of nine games prior to dropping the contest at Valparaiso.                                                  

Butler posted a 24-9 record in 2009.

FIELD TESTED:  The 2010 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings currently lists Butler’s schedule as the fourth toughest in the nation.  The Bulldogs played #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson in a four-day period at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., and #15/13 Georgetown at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.  Butler defeated #13/15 Ohio State and the Bulldogs have faced Northwestern (10-1) and UAB (11-1), both currently ranked in the “Top 25.”

Six of Butler’s first 12 foes have reached the “Top 25” this season.

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs have fallen from the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25” for the first time since last December, but remain in the ESPN/USA Today national poll at No. 23.  Butler has been ranked as high as No. 10 for the second consecutive season.  The Bulldogs have been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

MORE RANKINGS:  Butler slipped to third behind Northern Iowa and Gonzaga in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week. The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com prior to the loss at UAB.  Butler had been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll for the first eight weeks of the rankings.

LAST TIME OUT:  Butler used a balanced offensive effort and a stingy defense to overpower Green Bay in a first place showdown between the two teams at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve.  The Bulldogs trailed only twice in the game and took the lead for good at 9-8 on a free throw by junior Matt Howard less than four minutes into the game.  Butler led by eight points at halftime, 35-27, and stretched the margin to as many as 25 points in the second half, before settling for the 72-49 win.  All 15 Butler players saw action in the game, and 11 cracked the scoring column.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack led all scorers in the game with 14 points, while teammate Gordon Hayward added 13.  The 49 points were the fewest by the Phoenix in the last 96 games, and the 23-point margin was the second-largest suffered by Green Bay this season.  Butler limited the Phoenix to just six field goals in the final 20 minutes!    

The Bulldogs improved to 34-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens.

HOME WORK:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first five home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 24 of its last 26 home games and 62 of its last 68 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The Bulldogs posted a 125-17 (.880) record on their homecourt over the past decade (2000-09).

LEAD ROLE:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack matched his highest scoring output in the past six outings with his game-high total of 14 points against Green Bay.  He also led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first time since Dec. 2, when he shared scoring honors with teammate Gordon Hayward.  Mack, Butler’s second-leading scorer on the season, has topped the Bulldogs in scoring in five games this year, and Butler has won all five.  Over his career, Mack has led the Bulldogs in scoring 11 times, and Butler has a 10-1 record in those contests.

Butler is 16-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game.

BOARD WORK:  The Bulldogs had a decisive 39-22 rebounding advantage against Green Bay, including an 18-11 edge in offensive rebounds.  Butler’s work on the offensive glass contributed to 17 second-chance points.  The Bulldogs have had a rebounding advantage in five of their last seven contests.

The Bulldogs have out-rebounded their last three home opponents, 113-70.

PRODUCTIVE MINUTES:  Freshman Andrew Smith came off the bench against Green bay and led both teams with eight rebounds.  The 6-11 post player also tallied a career-high six points in just 11 minutes of action in the win.  Smith, who led the state of Indiana in rebounding as a senior at Covenant Christian High School last year, had career-highs of four offensive rebounds and four defensive rebounds in the win over the Phoenix.
 
MOVING UP:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal against Ohio State.  His seven points in Butler’s victory over Green Bay, boosted his career scoring total to 1,036 points in 79 career games and moved him into 29th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Avery Sheets (2002-06) in 28th place on the all-time list by 50 points.  Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

Matt Howard has averaged 14.7 points in 37 career games at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

SUCCESSFUL DECADE:  The Bulldogs’ victory over Green Bay closed out the most successful decade in Butler basketball history.  Butler won nearly 70% of its games over the past 10 years, posting a 236-103 record during the decade.  The Bulldogs had eight 20-win seasons, earned eight postseason tournament bids and had a pair of NCAA Sweet 16 appearances during the decade! 

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Former Butler player A. J. Graves was one of 26 players named to the Mid-Major All-Decade Team, chosen by CollegeInsider.com.  Graves also was selected as Butler’s Player of the Decade by a fan vote at the Green Bay game.

•The Bulldogs are 19-1 against Horizon League foes in Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward ranks third in the Horizon League in both scoring (16.6) and rebounding (9.0).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 3” in both categories.

•Gordon Hayward is currently ranked fifth in the Horizon League in blocked shots (0.9), and he’s sixth in the league in three-point field goals (1.8).  He’s second in the league in defensive rebounds (6.2), ranks third in the league in offensive rebounds (2.8) and he’s third in minutes played (33.6).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 14 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Butler’s duo of Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward rank 1-2 in the Horizon League in free throws made.  Howard leads the league with 68 free throws, while Hayward has hit 64.  Hayward is third in free throw shooting (.877), while Howard is ninth (.810).

•Gordon Hayward has hit 23 of 24 (.958) free throws at Hinkle Fieldhouse this year.

•Gordon Hayward is averaging 18.8 points in five games at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and he’s topped 20 points in two of the five games.  He did not have a 20-point scoring performance at the Fieldhouse last year.

•Shelvin Mack has had 12 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in six games this season.

•Shelvin Mack is seventh in the Horizon League in both assists (3.3) and assist/turnover ratio (1.4).  Mack had three assists and no turnovers against Green Bay.

•Senior Willie Veasley is averaging 13.6 points in Butler’s five games at home this season.  He’s hit his season-high of 15 points in three of the five home games and scored in double-figures in all five.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored ranks sixth in the Horizon League in steals (1.9).  He’s had 15 steals in Butler’s last six games.

•Junior Shawn Vanzant came off the bench and scored a career-high 20 points to lead the Bulldogs past Milwaukee in last year’s game at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Junior Grant Leiendecker hit a career-best four three-point field goals and scored a career-high 12 points in a career-high 16 minutes against Milwaukee last year.

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall, sidelined since suffering a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State, returned to action against Green Bay.  He hit one free throw in a brief two-minute stint.