December 17, 2009

Butler Ends Layoff At Home Against Xavier

TEST WEEK:  Butler ends a week of final exams with maybe its most challenging test when it hosts Atlantic 10 Conference power Xavier on Saturday, Dec. 19.  The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse and will be nationally-televised on ESPN2.  The Musketeers (6-3), once a frequent visitor to Hinkle Fieldhouse, are making their first visit to Butler’s homecourt since 1998.  The two teams were former conference foes in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference (now Horizon League) and met every season from 1976 to 1995.  Xavier, playing just its second true road game this season, is coming off an 83-79, double-overtime victory over Cincinnati on Sunday (Dec. 13).  Butler (7-3) is returning to the court for the first time since last weekend’s 74-66 victory at home over #13/15 Ohio State.  That win was Butler’s first over a team ranked in the “Top 25” since last year’s 74-65 victory at Xavier, when the Musketeers were ranked No. 14 in the national polls.                                           

The Bulldogs are 11-10 all-time against Xavier in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

TOP COMPETITION:  Ohio State was the fourth “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 #15/13 Georgetown on Tuesday (Dec. 8) at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.  Butler also played at Northwestern, and the Wildcats are currently receiving votes in both polls.

POLLING DATA:  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. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 21 in the A. P. poll.  Three weeks ago, Bulldogs were ranked in the “Top 10” for the second consecutive season.  Butler has been in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

MORE POLLING:  Butler slipped to second in this week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25.  Gonzaga currently holds the No. 1 spot.  The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for the first three weeks of the season and again last week.  Butler has been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll each week that the poll has been conducted.

HOME WORK:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first three home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 22 of its last 24 home games and 60 of its last 66 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The Bulldogs are 128-17 (.883) on their homecourt since 1999-2000.

Butler is 32-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored 24 points and senior Willie Veasley added 15 to help lead Butler to a 74-66 victory over nationally-ranked Ohio State on Saturday (Dec. 12).  The win was Butler’s third in three home games this season.  The Bulldogs trailed by two points, 36-34, at halftime, but out-scored Ohio State by 19 points in the first 15 minutes of the final period to take a 67-50 lead.  Ohio State mounted its own late charge and cut the lead to three, 69-66, in the final minute, but the Bulldogs held on behind four free throws from Veasley and one from sophomore Ronald Nored in the final 0:37.

The Bulldogs are 10-14 against teams ranked in the “Top 25” since 2000.

NATIONAL HONOR:  Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward was named Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week by the U. S. Basketball Writers Association for his performance against #15/13 Georgetown and #13/15 Ohio State.  The 6-9 guard had a pair of 24-point, eight-rebound performances against the two nationally-ranked foes.  He was a combined 16 of 35 (.457) from the field, including 7 of 17 (.412) from three-point range, and he made all nine free throws that he attempted in the two games.  This is the first season that the USBWA has selected a national player of the week.  Players honored during the season are added to the Oscar Robertson Trophy watch list for selection of the National Player of the Year.  Hayward also was honored as Horizon League Player of the Week.
 
CHARITABLE SEASON:  The Bulldogs continued their strong performance at the free throw line in the victory over Ohio State.  Butler hit 12 of 15 (.800) from the charity stripe in the final 20 minutes and finished the game shooting 75% (18-24) from the line.  Over the past seven contests, Butler is shooting .772 (146-189) from the charity stripe.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward has been perfect from the charity stripe in the last four games, making his last 22 attempts, while junior Matt Howard has connected on 28 of 34 (.824) free throws over the same stretch.

Butler ranks second in the Horizon League in team free throw shooting (.748).

1,000-POINT CLUB:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal against Ohio State.  He finished the game with 13 points, boosting his career scoring total to 1,011 points in 76 career games.  The 6-8 forward is seven points shy of Bruce Horan (2002-06) in 31st place on Butler’s all-time scoring list, 12 points behind J. P. Brens (1989-93) in 30th place and 17 points away from Dave Bennett (1968-71) in 29th place.   Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

DOUBLE TIME:  Senior Willie Veasley recorded his first career double-double with 15 points and a team-high 10 rebounds in Butler’s victory over Ohio State.  Both totals were one shy of his career-highs.  He scored a career-high 16 points against Cleveland State last year, and he had a career-high 11 rebounds against Green Bay in 2008.  Veasley added three assists, one blocked shot and two steals against Ohio State.

LOCK DOWN:  Sophomore point guard Ronald Nored had season-highs of eight points and four rebounds and added four assists and three steals against Ohio State.  But it was his work on the defensive end of the court that drew the most attention.  Nored chased Ohio State’s Jon Diebler, a 17.1 ppg scorer, and limited him to just seven points.  Diebler didn’t score his first field goal until 1:38 remained in the game!

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler and Xavier are two of the most successful basketball programs in Division I over the past decade.  Heading into this season, Butler ranked 12th in winning percentage (.729) from 2000-09, while Xavier ranked 14th (.727).

•Butler and Xavier are two of just nine schools to win at least 25 games in each of the last three seasons.  The others are North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Davidson and BYU.

•Xavier has nine 20-win seasons in the past 10 years, while Butler has eight.

•Matt Howard has averaged 15.1 points in 35 career games in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  He’s averaged 18.1 points in his last nine games at the Fieldhouse.  His career-high in the Fieldhouse is 30 points against Loyola last year.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 61, seven ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward.  Howard, who ranks sixth in the league in free throw shooting (.824), hit seven of eight from the charity stripe against Ohio State.

•Sophomore Gordon Hayward is the lone player to rank in the “Top 3” in the Horizon League in both scoring and rebounding.  Hayward is third in the league in scoring (16.9) and second in rebounding (8.2).

•Gordon Hayward currently ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw shooting (.871), fifth in minutes played (33.0) and seventh in blocked shots (0.8).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 11 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Gordon Hayward is the second Butler player to put together back-to-back 20-point scoring performances this season.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack had 20 points against Minnesota and 21 against UCLA in back-to-back games in November.

•Shelvin Mack has had nine straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in six of the last nine contests.

•Shelvin Mack, who had five assists against Ohio State, ranks third in the Horizon League in assists (3.5).  He’s sixth in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.4).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored had his first collegiate double-figures scoring performance with 10 points against Xavier last year.

•Junior Shawn Vanzant came off the bench with a career-high four steals against Xavier last year. 

•Senior Willie Veasley has had a season-high 15 points in each of Butler’s first three games in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

•Willie Veasley hit a career-high four three-point field goals against Xavier last year.

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall remains sidedlined after suffering a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State.