Bulldogs Face #19 Clemson At 76 Classic

TOURNAMENT WRAP:  Butler will play its second nationally-ranked opponent in four days when it takes on #19 Clemson in the consolation finals of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., on Sunday, Nov. 29.  The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. (PT, 7:30 p.m. in Indianapolis) and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.  Butler rebounded from a first-round tournament loss to #22/16 Minnesota and advanced to the consolation finals with a two-point victory over UCLA in the second round.  It was Butler’s first meeting with the Bruins in 46 years and the Bulldogs’ first victory over UCLA in 49 years!  Clemson bounced back from an opening-round loss to Texas A & M with an 87-79 victory over Long Beach State in the second round.  Butler and Clemson will be playing for just the second time, following a 1999 meeting in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament at Clemson.  The Tigers won that game, 89-69.                               

The Bulldogs are 10-1 in their last 11 regular season tournament games.

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs are ranked in the “Top 25” in both the Associated Press (A. P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, released on Monday (Nov. 23).  Butler remained at No. 10 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and slipped to No. 12 in the A. P. poll.  The Bulldogs were ranked in both preseason polls for the first time in school history!  Butler was nationally-ranked for 12 consecutive weeks last season, and the Bulldogs have been ranked each year since 2006-07.

TOP DOGS:  Butler began this week the No. 1 spot in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll.  The Bulldogs, who received the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com preseason poll on Nov. 2, received 28 first place votes in this week’s poll to finish ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga and No. 3 Old Dominion.

CONSOLATION FINALS:  Butler last participated in the consolation finals of an eight-team tournament in 2005 at the BCA Invitational in Laramie, Wyoming.  The Bulldogs fell in the opening round of that tournament to UNC-Wilmington, but bounced back with a victory over Alabama State in the second round.  Butler then faced Lehigh in the consolation round finals and prevailed with a 66-41 victory.  That Butler team, coached by Todd Lickliter, went on to post a 20-13 record and play in the NIT.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward hit a pair of free throws with 0:00.6 left on the clock to lift Butler to a 69-67 victory over UCLA in the second round of the 76 Classic.  The Bruins, playing in front of a home crowd rallied from an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes of the game and tied the contest at 67-67 on a three-point field goal by Jerime Anderson with just nine seconds remaining.  But the Bulldogs didn’t panic and Hayward brought the ball up-court, drove to the basket and lifted for a shot in the final second.  He didn’t get the shot off, but he was fouled just before the final buzzer sounded, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.  Butler scored the first four points of the game and never trailed in the contest.

SCORING LEADER:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack led all scorers in the Butler’s victory over UCLA with 21 points.  That performance followed his 20-point effort against Minnesota one night earlier.  It was the second time in his young career that Mack put together back-to-back 20-point scoring performances.  A year ago, the 6-3 guard tallied a career-high 22 points against Youngstown State and 20 points against Bradley in back-to-back Butler victories.  Mack has led the Bulldogs in scoring in three of five games this season.

Shelvin Mack is leading the 76 Classic in scoring (20.5) after two rounds.

SOLID START:  Butler broke a 6-6 tie against UCLA with an 8-2 scoring run in the first eight minutes of the contest, and the Bulldogs maintained a lead in the game until the final 10 seconds on the clock.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack scored 14 points in the first 20 minutes and helped Butler build as much as a 14-point lead.  The Bulldogs led by seven points at halftime, 42-37.

WARMING TREND:  The Bulldogs, coming off their two worst shooting performances of the season, built a lead against UCLA with 52% shooting in the first half.  Butler connected on 12 of its first 23 shots against the Bruins, while pulling away to a double-figures lead.  The warm front didn’t last.  Butler hit just seven of 25 shots (28%) in the second half and finished the game with a .396 shooting percentage.  The Bulldogs have failed to reach 40% in field goal shooting in three consecutive games for the first time under head coach Brad Stevens. 

CHARITABLE SEASON:  One game after setting a 76 Classic single game record for free throws made with 36 against Minnesota, the Bulldogs cashed 24 shots from the charity stripe against UCLA.  Butler enters the final game of this year’s 76 Classic just 12 free throws shy of the three-game tournament record (72 by UTEP and Wake Forest in 2008).  Butler has made 91 of 122 (.746) free throws in the past three games.

BOARDING PASS:  Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward topped the Bulldogs in rebounding for the fourth time in five outings with a game-high eight rebounds against UCLA.  He also led the Bulldogs against Minnesota with 10 rebounds.  The 6-9 forward is tied for second in the tournament in rebounding (9.0) after two rounds.

LINEUP CHANGE:  Sophomore Ronald Nored was inserted into Butler’s starting lineup in place of Shawn Vanzant, who had started Butler’s first four games.  Nored, who started all 32 Butler games a year ago, finished with six points, two rebounds and two assists.  Vanzant came off the bench with five points and one rebound.  Butler head coach Brad Stevens used the same starting lineup in all 32 games last season. 
 
AUTUMN SUCCESS:  The Bulldogs had 23-game November winning streak snapped by Minnesota.  Butler’s last previous November loss came at Big Ten foe Michigan, 78-74, on Nov. 26, 2005.  Butler is 16-1 in November under coach Brad Stevens.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Sophomore Shelvin Mack posted his second consecutive season scoring-high with 21 points against UCLA.  Mack had 20 points against Minnesota one night earlier.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 18.3 points in Butler’s last four games, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.

•Matt Howard needs 40 points to become the 32nd Butler player all-time to score 1,000 career points.  The last Butler player to score 1,000 points was A. J. Graves in 2006-07.

•Matt Howard played just 16 minutes against UCLA before fouling out for the fourth time in five games.  Howard, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year, has been on the court for an average of just 23.2 minutes per game this season.

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

•Freshman center Andrew Smith played a career-high 10 minutes against UCLA and matched his career-high with three rebounds in the win.

•Junior Zach Hahn came off the bench and hit a career-high four of four free throws against UCLA.  Hahn, who is perfect from the line this season (8-8), is shooting .875 (21-24) from the charity stripe for his career.

•Butler has won its last 16 games when hitting at least nine three-point field goals in a game.  The Bulldogs hit seven three-pointers against UCLA, after cashing just five long-range shots in the previous two outings.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens used the first day of the fall signing period to add three players to next year’s roster.  Signing with the Bulldogs on November 11 were 6-9 Erik Fromm of Bloomington (Ind.) South High School, 6-7 Khyle Marshall of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Fla., and 6-1 Chrishawn Hopkins of Manual High School in Indianapolis.  Fromm averaged 10.3 points and 7.1 rebounds as a junior, while leading his high school team to a 26-0 record and a Class 4A state championship in Indiana.  Marshall averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds a year ago, while earning All-State honors.  Hopkins averaged 17.3 points in just seven games at Manual, after transferring from Las Vegas last year.  The three new Bulldogs complete Butler’s 2010-11 recruiting class.