Bulldogs Begin Road Stretch At Wright State

TRAVEL ADVISORY:  Butler begins a stretch in which it will play six of its next eight games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse when it visits Wright State on Friday, Jan. 8.  The key Horizon League game at Wright State’s Nutter Center is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) and will be televised in Indianapolis on WNDY 23.  Butler and Wright State were the top two teams in the league’s preseason poll and both completed successful pre-conference slates.  Wright State enters the game with a 10-5 record, a 3-1 league mark and a perfect 6-0 ledger in the Nutter Center.  Only one team (Cleveland State) has come within nine points of the Raiders on their homecourt this season, and coach Brad Brownell’s squad has won its last three home games by an average of 34.3 points!  Butler ended 2009 and began 2010 with back-to-back Horizon League victories over Green Bay and Milwaukee.  The two wins left the 10-5 Bulldogs in sole possession of first place in the league with a 3-0 mark.  Butler has won three of its first four road games this season.                                                    

FIELD TESTED:  The 2010 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings listed Butler’s preconference 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 faced Northwestern and UAB, both later earning a “Top 25” ranking.

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

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler slipped to No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s victories over Green Bay and Milwaukee, and the Bulldogs are receiving votes in the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25” for the second straight week.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

MORE POLLING:  Butler remains 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 their loss at UAB on Dec. 22.  Butler had been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll for the first eight weeks of the rankings.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomores Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward combined for 41 points and helped Butler to its second-highest point total of the season, while leading the Bulldogs to an 80-67 victory over Milwaukee at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 2.  The Bulldogs broke an 8-8 tie and grabbed the lead for good on a jump shot by junior Zach Hahn less than five minutes into the game and then built the lead to as many as 14 points before settling for a 37-28 halftime advantage.  Mack and Hayward sparked an 11-5 run to open the second half and the lead never fell below double-figures for the remainder of the game.  Butler’s biggest lead came at 72-53 on a jump shot by Mack with 5:36 left in the contest.  Mack finished the game with a career-high 25 points, while Hayward added 16.  The 80 total points were the most by the Bulldogs since their early December victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse over Valparaiso, 84-67.       

The Bulldogs improved to 35-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens.

LEAGUE RECOGNITION:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack led Butler in scoring in back-to-back home wins last week, and his effort earned him Horizon League Player of the Week honors.  Mack hit six of 12 shots from the field and two of three from the free throw line and led all scorers with 14 points in the Bulldogs’ victory over previous league-leader Green Bay.  Less than 48 hours later, he cashed eight of 14 shots, including three of seven from beyond the three-point arc, and six of eight free throws to compile a career-high 25 points in Butler’s victory over Milwaukee.  The 6-3 guard had five assists, four rebounds, three steals and committed just one turnover in the two contests.  Mack has led the Bulldogs in scoring in six contests this season, and Butler has won all six.  Over his career, Butler is 11-1 when Mack leads the team in scoring.

Butler is 17-4 when Shelvin Mack scores at least 14 points in a game.

DOUBLE TAKE:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward recorded his third double-double in the past four games with 16 points and a game-high 10 rebounds against Milwaukee.  Hayward hit six of seven shots from the field and three of four from the free throw line, before fouling out in 26 minutes of action.  The 6-9 Butler guard posted back-to-back double-doubles in Butler’s games against Xavier (22 points, 14 rebounds) and UAB (12 points, 15 rebounds), and he now has nine double-doubles for his Butler career.

Gordon Hayward leads the Horizon League with six double-doubles this season.

CRASH COURSE:  The Bulldogs had a decisive rebounding advantage against both Wisconsin foes last weekend.  Butler out-rebounded Green Bay, 39-22, including an 18-11 edge on the offensive boards, and then recorded a 38-24 rebounding difference against Milwaukee, including a 12-6 advantage on the offensive glass.   The Bulldogs have had a rebounding advantage in six of their last eight contests.

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 eight points in Butler’s victory over Milwaukee, boosted his career scoring total to 1,044 points 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 42 points.  Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves reached the milestone as a junior in 2006-07.

Matt Howard is second in career points among active players in the Horizon League.

WOODEN WATCH:  Butler’s Gordon Hayward was named to the Midseason Top 30 List for the 2009-10 John R. Wooden Award All-American Team and Player of the Year Trophy.  The Midseason List is based on individual excellence and team performance during the first half of the season.  Hayward is the fourth consecutive Butler player to be recognized by the Wooden Committee, following A. J. Graves (2007), Mike Green (2008) and Matt Howard (2009).  The 34th Annual Wooden Award Ceremony will take place the weekend of April 9-11, 2010. 

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler owns a league-best 20 conference road wins over the past three seasons.  The Bulldogs were 7-2 in league road games last season.

•In conference games only, Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring offense (78.7), scoring margin (+17.7), field goal percentage (.494), three-point field goals (6.7), rebounding margin (+10.7), turnover margin (+4.3) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2).

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in five previous meetings with Wright State, but he’s looking for his first double-figures scoring performance in the Nutter Center.  Howard scored five points in the Nutter Center as a freshman and nine points last year.

•Matt Howard matched his season-high with three blocked shots against Milwaukee.  Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.1), and he leads the league with a 1.7 average for conference games only.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made (72), while sophomore Gordon Hayward (67) stands second.  Hayward is fourth in the league in free throw percentage (.870), while Howard is tied for eighth (.800). 

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward ranks third in the Horizon League in both scoring (16.6) and rebounding (9.1).  He’s the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both categories.

•Gordon Hayward currently leads the Horizon League in defensive rebounds (6.3), and he ranks third in offensive rebounds (2.8).  He’s tied for sixth in the league in blocked shots (0.8), he’s ninth in three-point field goals (1.8), and he’s fourth in minutes played (33.1).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 15 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Shelvin Mack has had 13 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in seven games this season.

•Shelvin Mack is leading the Bulldogs in scoring away from Hinkle Fieldhouse this season with a 15.8 average.  Gordon Hayward (15.3) is second in scoring away from the Fieldhouse.

•Shelvin Mack is sixth in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.4), and he’s seventh in assists (3.2).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored ranks sixth in the Horizon League in steals (1.8).

•Junior Shawn Vanzant hit a career-high eight of eight free throws in Butler’s victory over Milwaukee.

Junior Zach Hahn matched his career-high with five rebounds against Milwaukee.

•Forward Garrett Butcher came off the bench with a career-high seven rebounds in last year’s game at the Nutter Center.

•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.