Bulldogs Begin Horizon League Season At Home

LEAGUE START:  Butler returns home from a stretch of six consecutive games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse to begin Horizon League play against state rival Valparaiso on Saturday, Dec. 5, in a game that will be televised on WNDY 23.  The league-opener for both teams has been moved from a 2 p.m. (ET) start to a 7 p.m. tip-off to accommodate Butler’s home football game against Central Connecticut State in the Gridiron Classic.  The Bulldogs may need the additional time to adjust to the home surroundings.  Butler has played six of its first seven games away from Indianapolis, and the Bulldogs haven’t played a game in Hinkle Fieldhouse since Nov. 14.  Butler’s latest road test resulted in a 21-point victory at Ball State on Wednesday (Dec. 2).  That win came on the heels of the Bulldogs’ six-day, three-game trip to California.  Valparaiso is the third Indiana foe on Butler’s schedule.                                   

The Bulldogs have won 14 consecutive games against teams from Indiana.

POLL NUMBERS:  The Bulldogs continue to be ranked in the “Top 25” in both the Associated Press (A. P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls, released on Monday (Nov. 30).  Butler dropped from No. 10 to No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and from No. 12 to No. 23 in the A. P. poll.  The Bulldogs were ranked in the “Top 10” for the second consecutive season.  Butler was nationally-ranked for 12 consecutive weeks last season, and the Bulldogs have been nationally-ranked each year since 2006-07.

MORE POLLS:  Butler slipped to No. 2 in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll, following last weekend’s losses.  The Bulldogs, who held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for three weeks, trail Gonzaga in this week’s rankings.  Portland, runner-up at the 76 Classic, moved into the No. 3 spot in the Mid-Major Poll.

IN THE HOUSE:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they won their first home game over Davidson this season.  Butler has been successful in 20 of its last 22 home games and 58 of its last 64 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The Bulldogs are 126-17 (.882) on their homecourt since 1999-2000.

Butler has won 34 of its last 36 league games played at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

LAST TIME OUT:  Butler jumped to a 16-4 lead at Ball State behind some early hot shooting and a lock-down defensive effort.  The Bulldogs grabbed a 3-2 lead on the first of four three-point field goals by sophomore Shelvin Mack and never looked back.  Mack followed a free throw by Butler’s Matt Howard with three consecutive three-pointers, interrupted only by a pair of Ball State free throws.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward added a fifth three-point field goal to give Butler a 12-point lead before Ball State could score its second field goal.  The Bulldogs limited Ball State to just four field goals and 11 points in the first 20 minutes!  The Cardinals scored their 10th point with 5:53 remaining in the first half and then went scoreless for five minutes, before cashing their 11th point with 0:53 left.  Butler led by 18 points, 29-11, at halftime and stretched that margin to as many as 23 points in the second half.  Ball State wound up shooting just 19% in the first half and 32% for the game.

HOT START:  Sophomore Shelvin Mack connected on his first four three-point field goal attempts at Ball State and finished the first half with 12 points, while shooting 80% from the three-point arc.  The four three-pointers were a season-high for the 6-3 guard and just one shy of his career-high set against UAB last season.  Mack’s 12 first half points out-scored the entire Ball State team!  He finished the game with 15 points.

Shelvin Mack has led Butler in scoring in four of seven games this season.

DOUBLE DUTY:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward shared Butler’s scoring lead against Ball State with 15 points and he led the Bulldogs in rebounding with eight.  The 6-9 forward has led Butler in rebounding in each of the last four games and in six of seven outings this season.  He’s been Butler’s leading scorer three times.  Hayward also leads the team in blocked shots (5), he’s second on the team in three-point field goals (9) and he’s tied for third on the squad in steals (8).
 
DOGGED DEFENSE:  Butler head coach Brad Stevens emphasized guarding in preparation for the game at Ball State, and the Bulldogs followed his instructions.  Ball State scored just one field goal and just four points in the first eight minutes of the game.  The Bulldogs also held Ball State to a single field goal and three points in the final nine minutes of the first half!  The 38 total points were the fewest by a Division I opponent in Butler’s last 43 games.  It was also the lowest point total by a Ball State team in 58 years!

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Senior Willie Veasley helped spark Butler’s defensive effort at Ball State with a solid performance guarding the Cardinals’ Terrence Watson, who was coming off his first career double-double.  Watson managed just one rebound and no points against the Bulldogs.  In the three games prior to the Ball State contest, Veasley was given the task of guarding Clemson’s Naismith Candidate, 6-7, 240-pound Trevor Booker, 6-4 UCLA guard Malcolm Lee and Minnesota scoring leader Damian Johnson, a 6-7 forward.

CHARITY WORK:  The Bulldogs have continued to surge at the free throw line in recent games.  Over the past four contests, Butler is shooting .752 (82-109) from the charity stripe.  The Bulldogs nailed eight of 10 free throws in the first half at Ball State and finished the game with 16 of 21 (.762) from the line.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward was a perfect six of six at the line against Ball State, and he’s hit 38 of 46 (.826) free throws on the season.

Butler has made more free throws (141) than its opponents have shot (126).

GRAND OPPORTUNITY:  Junior Matt Howard is closing in on becoming the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points.  He enters the Valparaiso contest with 973 points in 73 career games.  The last Butler player to score 1,000 career points was Howard’s former teammate A. J. Graves, who turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

LINEUP CHANGE:  Sophomore Ronald Nored was inserted into Butler’s starting lineup against UCLA 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 against the Bruins.  The 6-0 Nored has started Butler’s last three games, while Vanzant has contributed in each contest off the bench.  Butler used the same starting lineup in all 32 games last season.
 
BULLDOG BITS: 

•Junior Matt Howard has connected on 12 of 18 (.667) shots in Butler’s last four games.  The 6-8 forward entered the 76 Classic in California shooting just .333 (7-21) over Butler’s first three games this season.

•Matt Howard scored a season-high 23 points in Butler’s game against #16 Minnesota at the 76 Classic.  It was his first 20-point scoring performance since last year’s NCAA Tournament game against LSU.  Howard has scored in double-figures in four of his last five games.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored a season-high 18 points against Clemson.  He also had a season-high 12 rebounds and a season-high two blocked shots in the game.  His rebounding total was one shy of his career-high, set against Valparaiso last year.

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

•Gordon Hayward currently ranks third in the Horizon League in rebounding (8.9).  He’s tied for second in the league in free throw shooting (.826), and he’s ninth in scoring (14.7).

•Gordon Hayward tripled his season total from three-point range at the 76 Classic.  The Butler forward, who led the Bulldogs in three-pointers a year ago, hit six long-range shots in the three games.  He had hit just two three-pointers in Butler’s first three games.

•Guard Shelvin Mack has hit 12 of 27 (.444) three-point field goal attempts in the past four games.  Mack had hit just five of 13 (.385) three-point attempts in Butler’s first three games.

•Shelvin Mack had eight rebounds in Butler’s game against Clemson, one off of his career-high set against Cleveland State last year.  Mack averaged 6.3 rebounds in the three games in California.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 17.2 points in Butler’s last six games, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has score at least 15 points in each of his last six contests.

•Shelvin Mack, who had a team-high four assists at Ball State, stands fourth in the Horizon League in assists (3.7).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored finished the 76 Classic with seven assists and just two turnovers.  The Butler guard has a Horizon League-best 2.3 assist/turnover ratio, but he’s two assists shy of qualifying for league statistical rankings.

•Senior Willie Veasley, who had four steals at the 76 Classic and two against Ball State, has taken over the team lead in thefts with 12. He ranks 8th in the Horizon League.

•Senior Avery Jukes and junior Zach Hahn combined to score 30 of Butler’s 38 bench points at the 76 Classic in California.

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall suffered a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State, and he’s doubtful for the Bulldogs’ home game against Valparaiso.