Butler Visits Red-Hot UAB For Final Pre-Christmas Tilt

HOLIDAY PLAY:  Butler’s challenging pre-Christmas schedule continues with yet another tough test when the Bulldogs travel to Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, Dec. 22, to face UAB.  The non-league game at Bartow Arena is slated for 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis).  The Blazers have been hotter than their name.  UAB, coached by former Indiana University coach Mike Davis, has won nine consecutive games and stands 10-1 on the season.  Six of those wins have come at Bartow Arena, including a 17-point victory over #25 Cincinnati.  The Blazers, who have won 30 consecutive non-league games at home, are beating opponents by an average of 14.2 points, and that margin is 17.2 points at home!  UAB defeated South Alabama, 72-54, on the road on Saturday (Dec. 19).  Butler improved to 8-3 on the year with a 69-68 decision over Xavier at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday.  The Bulldogs will take a week off after the UAB game, before returning to Horizon League play at home against Green Bay on New Year’s Eve.                                             

Butler is 11-1 in non-conference road games under head coach Brad Stevens.

TOP COMPETITION:  UAB is the sixth Butler foe to be receiving votes in the national polls.  The Bulldogs played #16 Minnesota and #19 Clemson in a four-day period at the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., and #15/13 Georgetown at the Jimmy V Classic in New York.  Butler defeated #13/15 Ohio State and Northwestern (receiving votes).

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. 21).  Butler sits at No. 16 in the ESPN/USA Today poll and No. 20 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 last week’s CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25, but could move up with No. 1 Gonzaga losing to Duke.  The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com poll for the first three weeks of the season and again on Dec. 7.  Butler has been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll each week that the poll has been conducted.

LAST TIME OUT:  Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored on a lay-up with 0:01.2 left, and 13 minutes later it became a buzzer-beater to lift the Bulldogs to a 69-68 victory over Xavier.  The strange end-of-game sequence started with Hayward’s basket, following a loose-ball scramble in the closing seconds.  The game officials then huddled over an inadvertent clock stoppage earlier in Butler’s final possession.  After reviewing several replays of the final 15 seconds and timing the stoppage, the officials determined that the clock had been stopped for 1.3 seconds.  Hayward’s shot left his hand at 0:01.8 and the clock was correctly stopped at 0:01.2.  The 1.3 seconds were deducted, ending the game on Hayward’s basket.  The final shot capped Butler’s comeback from a six-point deficit in the final 15 minutes.  The Bulldogs had led by as many as 15 points in the first half, before falling behind in the first three minutes of the final period. 

The Bulldogs improved to 33-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens.

RIGHT PLACE:  The dramatic game-winner by Gordon Hayward against Xavier was eerily similar to his final field goal as a high school athlete.  In March of 2008, Hayward became a part of Hoosier basketball lore when he grabbed a deflected pass and scored on a short jumper as time expired to give Brownsburg High School a 40-39 victory over Marion High School and the Indiana Class 4A state championship.

DOUBLE TAKE:  Gordon Hayward recorded his fourth double-double this season and the seventh of his career with a game-high 22 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against Xavier.  Hayward scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half, while helping the Bulldogs to a 39-32 halftime lead.  He wound up hitting six of 11 shots in the game, including four of five from beyond the three-point arc.  He also hit six of seven attempts from the free throw line.  The 6-9 guard added three assists and a steal.

Gordon Hayward was named Horizon League Player of the Week for the second consecutive week.
 
BALANCING ACT:  The Bulldogs had four players score in double-figures in the win over Xavier, led by Gordon Hayward’s 22 points.  Sophomore Shelvin Mack tallied 14 points, senior Willie Veasley had 13 and junior Matt Howard added 12.  It was the second consecutive game that Butler had four players in double-figures and the third time in four games that at least four Bulldogs reached twin-digits.  Butler has had seven different players hit double-figures in a game this season.

MOVING UP:  Junior Matt Howard became the 32nd Butler player to score 1,000 career points with his first field goal against Ohio State.  His 12 points in Butler’s victory over Xavier, boosted his career scoring total to 1,023 points in 77 career games and moved him into a tie with J. P. Brens (1989-93) for 30th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward is five points shy of Dave Bennett (1968-71) in 29th place on the all-time list.   Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

BOARD WORK:  The Bulldogs finished with a 34-21 rebounding advantage against Xavier, including a 13-7 edge in offensive rebounds.  The work on the offensive boards helped Butler to a 10-4 advantage in second-chance points.  Sophomore guard Gordon Hayward finished with five offensive rebounds, while junior forward Matt Howard added four.  The Bulldogs have had a rebounding advantage in back-to-back games and in four of their last five contests.

ADDED VALUE:  Senior Willie Veasley matched the highest two-game scoring total of his Butler career with 13 points against Xavier and 15 against Ohio State.  He also scored 28 points in back-to-back games against Youngstown State and Cleveland State last year.  Veasley, who regularly draws the assignment of guarding the opponent’s top scorer, has averaged 12.5 points over Butler’s last four outings.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•Butler has been one of the most successful basketball programs in Division I over the past decade.  Heading into this season, Butler ranked 12th in Division I in winning percentage (.729) from 2000-09.

•Butler is one 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, Xavier and BYU.

•Butler has eight 20-win seasons in the past 10 years.

•Junior Matt Howard hit five of nine field goal attemps against Xavier, after making just four of 21 shots in Butler’s previous two games.  Howard ranks seventh on Butler’s list for career field goal shooting (.548).

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 63, three ahead of teammate Gordon Hayward.  Howard ranks ninth in the league in free throw shooting (.808), while Hayward is third (.870).

•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 (17.4) and second in rebounding (8.7).

•Gordon Hayward is currently tied for ninth in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (1.9) and blocked shots (0.7).  He rank fifth in the league in offensive rebounds (2.7), second in defensive rebounds (6.0) and fifth in minutes played (33.5).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 12 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Gordon Hayward missed his fifth free throw attempt against Xavier, snapping his string of 26 consecutive free throws made.

•Gordon Hayward has put together three consecutive games of 20 points or more for the first time in his young career.  The Butler guard has averaged 23.3 points in games against Georgetown, Ohio State and Xavier.

•Shelvin Mack has had 10 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 10 contests.

•Shelvin Mack ranks fifth in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.3).  He’s tied for fifth in the league in assists (3.4).

•Sophomore Ronald Nored, who’s had 12 steals in Butler’s last four games, is tied for fifth in the Horizon League in steals (2.0).  Nored hails from Alabama and was a prep player at nearby Homewood High School.

•Ronald Nored did not score in last year’s game against UAB, but he did have three rebounds, two assists and a steal.

•Senior Avery Jukes began his collegiate basketball career at Alabama in 2006.

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