January 19, 2010

Butler Begins Road Stretch At Loyola

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CITY TRAVEL:  Butler begins a stretch of four consecutive Horizon League road games when it visits Loyola on Thursday, Jan. 21.  The game, the first of two straight in Chicago, is scheduled for 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis) at Loyola’s Joseph J. Gentile Center and will be televised in Indianapolis on WNDY-TV.  The Bulldogs are coming off back-to-back homecourt wins over Cleveland State, 64-55, and Youngstown State, 91-61.  The two wins lifted Butler to 14-4 on the season and 7-0 in the Horizon League and kept the #20-ranked Bulldogs in sole possession of first place in the league standings.  Loyola, boasting the second-best overall record in the league (12-5), improved to 3-4 in conference games with a 55-50 victory at UIC in its last outing.  The Ramblers, who own the league’s second-best homecourt record with a 7-1 mark, won the last meeting with Butler, 71-67, last February at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  It was Butler’s only league home loss in 2008-09.  Following the game at Loyola, Butler will remain in Chicago to play UIC on Saturday, Jan. 23, The road stretch will continue at Green Bay (Jan. 29) and Milwaukee (Jan. 31).      

Butler’s current six-game winning streak is the team’s longest this season.

ROAD TESTED:  Butler owns a league-best 5-1 record in true road games this season, including a 2-0 mark in Horizon League road games.  The Bulldogs have won two straight road games, since suffering their lone road setback at UAB on Dec. 22. 

NATIONAL SCENE:  Butler climbed to No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today national poll following last week’s victories over Cleveland State and Youngstown State, and the Bulldogs continue to receive votes in the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25.”  The Bulldogs were ranked in both polls for the first seven weeks of the season and have been ranked in the ESPN/USA Today poll for 11 straight weeks.  Butler has been ranked in the “Top 25” of the two national polls each year since 2006-07.

MID-MAJOR WATCH:  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 poll for eight weeks.

LAST TIME OUT:  The Bulldogs used a smothering defensive effort and a hot shooting touch to roll past Youngstown State at Hinkle Fieldhouse.  Butler recorded six steals and forced 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, while racing out to a 49-26 halftime lead over the visiting Penguins.  The Bulldogs, who shot 60% (15-25) in the first half including 55% (6-11) from beyond the three-point arc, scored the first eight points of the game and stretched the lead to double-figures just over six minutes into the contest.  Butler continued to shoot better than 50% in the second half, while stretching the lead to 30 points on three different occasions.  Four different players, led by Shelvin Mack with 24, scored in double-figures for the Bulldogs, who won their eighth straight home game.  The 91 points the Bulldogs scored were the most by a Butler team since a 92-50 win at Cleveland State in February of 2007.             

Butler improved to 7-0 in the Horizon League for the second straight year and for just the second time in 19 seasons.

QUICK START:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack wasted little time making his presence felt in both of Butler’s home wins last weekend.  The 6-3 guard hit five of seven shots and scored 11 points in the first half of the Bulldogs’ victory over Cleveland State.  He finished with 15 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.  Less than 48 hours later, Mack connected on eight of 10 shots and scored 22 points in the first half of Butler’s win over Youngstown State!  He added just two more points in the second half, but still led all scorers in the game.  In the two games, Mack shot 71% (15-21) from the field and 75% (6-8) from the three-point arc!

Shelvin Mack is second in the league in scoring (16.0) in league games only.

INSIDE JOB:  Junior Matt Howard didn’t lead the Bulldogs in scoring in either of its two wins over the weekend, but he certainly was a big presence in both contests.  The 6-8 forward led all players with eight rebounds in the win over Cleveland State, and he added six points, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot.  Against Youngstown State, he hit six of nine shots from the floor, 10 of 14 from the free throw line and scored 22 points in 25 minutes of action.  It was just his second 20-point scoring performance of the season.  He also led all players in the game with six rebounds.

FINISHING TOUCH:  Butler continued a trend it started at home in its victory over Milwaukee with strong second-half shooting performances in each of its last four wins.   The Bulldogs, who hit at a 57.7% (15-26) clip in the second half of their win over Milwaukee, shot 57.9% (11-19) in the final 20 minutes at Wright State, 56.5% (13-23) in the second half and overtime period at Detroit, 61.1% (11-18) in the second period against Cleveland State and 53.6% (15-28) in the final stanza against Youngstown State.

Butler is shooting .570 after halftime of its last five games.
 
SHARP-SHOOTERS:  Butler’s marksmanship has picked up considerably since the start of Horizon League play.  Butler’s top five scorers in league games are all shooting better than 50% from the field, and the Bulldogs boast four of the top eight players in conference games only field goal shooting.  Senior Willie Veasley and sophomore Gordon Hayward are currently tied for second with .558 field goal percentages in conference games, while sophomore Shelvin Mack is sixth (.530).  Junior Matt Howard ranks eighth (.512) in the league games only statistics.  And junior Zach Hahn (.552) would rank fifth, but he doesn’t have enough field goals made to qualify for league rankings.

The Bulldogs are shooting a league-best .500 in conference games.

POINTING UP:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal in the Bulldogs’ home victory over Ohio State.  His 22 points against Youngstown State boosted his career scoring total to 1,092 points, good for 28th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Joel Cornette (2002-06) in 27th place on the all-time list by eight points and Dave Sanders in 26th place by 11 points.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler ranks first or second in Horizon League only games in 15 different statistical categories.  The Bulldogs lead the conference games only statistics in scoring offense (76.0), scoring defense (60.9), scoring margin (+15.1), field goal percentage (.500), rebounding defense (24.1), assists (14.0), assist/turnover margin (1.2), offensive rebounding percentage (.365) and three-point field goals (7.4).

•The Bulldogs had a season-high 23 assists on 30 field goals against Youngstown State.

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 20.5 points and 8.8 rebounds in four career games against Loyola.  He had a career-high 30 points in his last game against the Ramblers.

•Matt Howard ranks second among active Horizon League players in career scoring (1,092 points).

•Matt Howard has moved into fifth place on Butler’s all-time list for free throws made with 402.  He’s three shy of Billy Shepherd, 1969-72, in the No. 4 spot.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made (90), while Gordon Hayward (89) stands second.  Hayward is fourth in the league in free throw percentage (.832), while Howard is eighth (.789).

•Gordon Hayward had a streak of 17 consecutive games in double-figures snapped when he scored just eight points against Cleveland State.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward, despite posting just 15 points and eight rebounds in Butler’s wins over Cleveland State and Youngstown State, still ranks fourth in the Horizon League in scoring (15.8) and third in rebounding (8.4).  Hayward, who was battling an upper respiratory infection last weekend, is the lone player in the league to rank in the “Top 5” in both scoring and rebounding.

•Gordon Hayward is averaging a team-best 15.5 points in Butler’s six road games this season.  He’s averaged 9.2 rebounds on the road for the Bulldogs. 

•Shelvin Mack has had 17 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Butler is 20-4 when Mack scores at least 14 points in a game, and 13-1 when the sophomore guard leads the team in scoring.

•Shelvin Mack has led the Bulldogs with an 18.2 scoring average during the team’s current six-game winning streak.  Mack is shooting .541 from the field and .448 from the three-point arc during winning the streak.

•Senior Willie Veasley has scored in double-figures in eight of Butler’s last nine games.  Veasley has averaged 10.5 points during the Bulldogs’ current six-game wining streak.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored matched his career-high with seven assists, and he committed just one turnover against Youngstown State.  Nored leads the Horizon League lead in assist/turnover ratio (2.4).

•The Bulldogs hit a season-high 12 three-point field goals against Youngstown State.  Butler has won its last 18 games when hitting at least nine three-pointers.