December 7, 2009

Butler Faces Georgetown At Madison Square Garden

GARDEN PARTY:  Butler, coming off back-to-back wins in Indiana, returns to the national stage when it travels to New York to face #15/13 Georgetown in the Jimmy V Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 8.  The 7 p.m. (ET) contest at Madison Square Garden will be televised nationally on ESPN.  The game against unbeaten Georgetown (6-0) will be the first half of a double-header at the famed arena.  Indiana will play Pittsburgh in the second contest.  Butler will be facing Georgetown for the first time on the basketball court.  The Bulldogs (6-2) posted wins last week at Ball State (Dec. 2), 59-38, and at home against Valparaiso (Dec. 5), 84-67, in the  Horizon League-opener for both teams.  The game against Valparaiso was Butler’s first home game since Nov. 14, and just the second home contest for the Bulldogs this season!  The Bulldogs will be playing in Madison Square Garden for the first time since November of 2006 when they posted back-to-back wins over #22 Tennessee, 56-44, and #23 Gonzaga, 79-71, to win the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off.                                   

Butler is 4-3 all-time in Madison Square Garden.

TOP COMPETITION:  Georgetown is the third “Top 25” foe on Butler’s early schedule.  The Bulldogs played #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson in a four-day period at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., last month.  And #13/15 Ohio State will visit Hinkle Fieldhouse this Saturday, Dec. 12.

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 (Dec. 7).  Butler sits at No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 22 in the A. P. poll.  Two weeks ago, 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 was ranked second in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 poll on Nov. 30.  The Bulldogs, who held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for three weeks, trailed Gonzaga in the rankings.  Portland stood third.

LAST TIME OUT:  Five Butler players scored in double-figures to help power the Bulldogs to a 17-point victory over visiting Valparaiso in the Horizon League-opener for both teams.  The Bulldogs overcame a hot-shooting Valparaiso squad by forcing 15 turnovers and scoring 22 points off those miscues.  Valparaiso, behind five of eight three-point field goal shooting, built a five-point lead, 23-18 with seven and a half minutes left in the first period, but the Bulldogs closed the half by out-scoring the visitors, 20-9, to take a six-point halftime lead.  Butler then opened the second half with an 18-8 run and Valparaiso never got the margin under double-figures for the rest of the game.  Gordon Hayward paced a balanced Butler attack with 18 points, while Matt Howard added 16.  Willie Veasley finished with 15 points, Shelvin Mack added 11 and Avery Jukes came off the bench with 10.  The 84 points were the most scored by the Bulldogs since last year’s 87-75 victory at Bradley (Dec. 10, 2008).

Butler has won 15 consecutive games against teams from Indiana.

INSIDE APPROACH:  Butler’s frontcourt of Matt Howard, Gordon Hayward, Willie Veasley and reserve Avery Jukes combined for 59 of Butler’s 84 points against Valparaiso.  The four forwards also combined to shoot 62% (16-26) for the game!  Jukes was the most accurate, hitting all three shots that he attempted, while Veasley hit four of six shots, including three of three from beyond the three-point arc.  Howard connected on four of seven shots and Hayward hit five of ten.  The four also accounted for 16 of Butler’s 21 rebounds in the game. 

HOLIDAY STEAL:  Butler recorded a season-high 13 steals in the victory over Valparaiso.  Sophomore point-guard Ronald Nored led the way for the Bulldogs with a career-high five thefts, while Gordon Hayward and Shawn Vanzant each added a pair.  The 13 steals were the most by Butler since last January, when the Bulldogs came up with 13 steals in a victory at home over Valparaiso.

Butler is tied for second in the Horizon League in steals (8.8).
 
WARM NIGHT:  Butler and Valparaiso both shot better than 50% from the field in the league-opener for both squads.  The visiting Crusaders connected on 24 of 45 (.533) shots in the game, including seven of 15 (.467) from beyond the three-point arc.  Valparaiso hit five of eight (.625) three-pointers in the first half.  Butler shot even better!  The Bulldogs wound up hitting 25 of 44 shots for a season-high .568 clip.  Butler hit seven of 17 (.412) from the three-point line, including four of six (.667) in the second half.

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  Senior Willie Veasley continued to demonstrate his defensive versatility with a strong effort on Valparaiso guard Brandon Wood.  Veasley held Wood scoreless in the first half, and the Crusaders’ season scoring leader didn’t record his first field goal until late in the second half, after Butler had built a double-figures lead.  In the recent 76 Classic in California, 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 five contests, Butler is shooting .762 (109-143) from the charity stripe.  The Bulldogs hit 27 of 34 (.794) free throw attempts against Valparaiso.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward has been perfect in the last two games, making his last 13 attempts.

Butler has made more free throws (168) than its opponents have shot (141).

GRAND OPPORTUNITY:  Junior Matt Howard is closing in on becoming the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points.  He enters the Georgetown contest with 989 points in 74 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.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Junior Matt Howard has connected on 16 of 25 (.640) shots in Butler’s last five 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 five of his last six games.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 47, two ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward.  Howard hit eight of nine from the charity stripe in Butler’s victory over Valparaiso.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward matched his season-high with 18 points against Valparaiso.  He previously scored 18 points (and grabbed a season-high 12 rebounds) in Butler’s game against Clemson in the 76 Classic in Anaheim.

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

•Gordon Hayward currently ranks third in the Horizon League in rebounding (8.3).  He’s also third in the league in free throw shooting (.849), and he’s tied for seventh in scoring (15.1).  He’s tied for eighth in the league in blocked shots (0.8)

•Gordon Hayward had a career-high five assists against Valparaiso.

•Shelvin Mack has averaged 16.3 points in Butler’s last seven games, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has score at least 15 points in six of the last seven contests.

•Shelvin Mack, who had six assists in two games last week, ranks fifth in the Horizon League in assists (3.5).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored has recorded eight assists and just four turnovers since returning to Butler’s starting lineup against UCLA.  His 2.0 assist/turnover ratio on the season would rank second in the Horizon League, but he’s four assists shy of qualifying for league statistical rankings.

•Senior Willie Veasley is the only current Butler player who has played in Madison Square Garden.  He saw action in both Butler games in the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off, finishing with two points and two rebounds in five minutes against Tennessee and playing four minutes against Gonzaga.

•Willie Veasley matched his season-high with three 3-point field goals against Valparaiso. 

•Willie Veasley matched his season-high with 15 points against Valparaiso.  He also scored 15 points in Butler’s season-opener against Davidson.

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall suffered a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State, and he didn’t play against Valparaiso.  He’s doubtful for the Georgetown game.