December 29, 2009

Bulldogs Close 2009 Against League-Leading Green Bay

LEAGUE RE-START:  Butler returns to the hardcourt after an eight-day layoff and resumes Horizon League play when it hosts league-leading Green Bay on New Year’s Eve.  The final Butler game of 2009 will start at 7 p.m. (ET) and will be televised locally on WNDY 23.  Green Bay, picked fifth in the league’s preseason poll, has jumped to  3-0 league start with wins over Loyola, UIC and Youngstown State.  The Phoenix boasts a league-best 10 wins overall, including an overtime victory over No. 20-ranked Wisconsin shortly before Christmas.  Green Bay handed Butler one of three league setbacks a year ago.  The Bulldogs, who began Horizon League play on Dec. 5 with a win over Valparaiso, are returning to action for the first time since suffering a 67-57 setback at UAB three days before Christmas.  The loss was Butler’s fourth in 12 outings this season, all to teams ranked or receiving votes in the “Top 25.”                                             

Butler is 11-2 under head coach Brad Stevens in games following a loss.

FIELD TESTED:  The 2010 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings currently lists Butler’s schedule as the fourth toughest in the nation.  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 the Bulldogs have faced Northwestern (10-1) and UAB (11-1), both currently ranked in the “Top 25.”

Butler’s four losses have come to teams that currently are a combined 40-7.

POLLING DATA:  The Bulldogs have fallen from the Associated Press (A.P.) “Top 25” for the first time since last December, but remain in the ESPN/USA Today national poll at No. 23.  Butler has been ranked as high as No. 10 for the second consecutive season.  The Bulldogs have been ranked in the “Top 25” each year since 2006-07.

MORE RANKINGS:  Butler slipped to third behind Northern Iowa and Gonzaga in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 this week. The Bulldogs held the top spot in the CollegeInsider.com prior to the loss at UAB.  Butler had been ranked first or second in the Mid-Major poll for the first eight weeks of the rankings.

HOME WORK:  The Bulldogs were 15-2 at Hinkle Fieldhouse last year, and they’ve won their first four home games this season.  Butler has been successful in 23 of its last 25 home games and 61 of its last 67 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The Bulldogs are 129-17 (.884) on their homecourt since 1999-2000.

Butler is 33-3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

LAST TIME OUT:  Host UAB used a 10-2 scoring run in the final two minutes to turn a two-point advantage into a ten-point victory, 67-57, over the Bulldogs right before Christmas.  UAB scoring leader Elijah Millsap, held in check for most of the game, sparked the decisive run.  With the Blazers holding on to a tenuous 57-55 lead, the 6-6 Millsap came up with a steal and a free throw.  A basket by Jamar Sanders and another steal and three-point play by Millsap made it 63-55 with 30 seconds remaining and UAB out-scored Butler, 4-2, at the free throw line to finish the game.  Sanders led four Blazers in double-figures with 18 points, while Millsap finished with 11, nearly five points below his season average.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward topped the Bulldogs with 12 points. 

The 10-point loss at UAB was Butler’s biggest margin of defeat in the past 87 games.

DOUBLE VISION:  Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward recorded his second consecutive double-double with a team-high 12 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against UAB.  He became the first Butler player to record 15 rebounds in a game since 1999, when Mike Marshall grabbed 15 caroms in a game against Green Bay!  Hayward matched his career-high with 12 defensive rebounds against the Blazers.  The 6-9 wing player, who had 22 points and 14 rebounds in his previous outing against Xavier, has a league-high five double-doubles this season, two more than he had all of last season.

Gordon Hayward matched Detroit’s Eli Holman for the highest single-game rebound total (15) this season.
 
HOMECOMING:  Sophomore Ronald Nored returned to his home area in Alabama when the Bulldogs played at UAB, and the 6-0 guard had a large contingent of fans from his hometown (Homewood, Ala.) and church in attendance at the game.  Nored connected on a career-best six of six free throws in the contest and matched his season-scoring high with eight points against the Blazers.  He added two rebounds and two assists in 33 minutes of action.  The game was Nored’s first in Alabama since he led Homewood to the Class 6A state finals in 2008.

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 six points against UAB, boosted his career scoring total to 1,029 points in 78 career games and moved him into 29th place on Butler’s all-time scoring list.  The 6-8 forward trails Avery Sheets (2002-06) in 28th place on the all-time list by 57 points.   Howard is Butler’s first 1,000-point scorer since former teammate A. J. Graves turned the trick as a junior in 2006-07.

CHARITY WORK:  The Bulldogs connected on 14 of 17 (.824) free throws at UAB, including eight of eight in the second half.  But the 17 attempts were the fewest in the last six Butler games.  The Bulldogs entered the game against UAB averaging nearly 27 free throw attempts per game through the first 11 contests.  Butler has out-scored its opponents, 234-152, at the line this year.

ADDED VALUE:  Senior Willie Veasley posted his third consecutive double-figures scoring performance with 10 points at UAB.  It marked just the second time in his collegiate career that he’s hit for twin-digits in three straight games.  The 6-3 Butler forward also matched his career-high with three steals against the Blazers, and he continued to enhance his defensive resume by helping limit UAB scoring-leader Elijah Millsap to 11 points.

BULLDOG BITS: 

•The Bulldogs are 18-1 against Horizon League foes in Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.

•Junior Matt Howard has averaged 15.3 points and 7.3 rebounds in four previous games against Green Bay.  He had 22 points and nine rebounds in his first meeting with the Phoenix as a freshman.

•Matt Howard had a career-high five blocked shots against the Phoenix in the game at Green Bay last year.

•Matt Howard was held to season-lows of six points and two rebounds at UAB.  He didn’t shoot a free throw in the game for only the second time this season.  Howard also scored just six points against UCLA.

•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 in rebounding (9.3).

•Gordon Hayward is currently tied for eighth in the Horizon League in blocked shots (0.8), and he’s 10th in the league in three-point field goals (1.8).  He’s tied for first in the league in defensive rebounds (6.5), ranks fifth in the league in offensive rebounds (2.8) and he’s fifth in minutes played (33.9).

•Gordon Hayward is the only Butler player to score in double-figures in each game this season.  He’s had 13 consecutive double-figures scoring performances, dating back to last year.

•Gordon Hayward leads the Horizon League in free throws made with 64, one ahead of teammate Matt Howard.  Hayward stands second in the league in free throw percentage (.877), while Howard is ninth (.808).

•Gordon Hayward has hit 23 of 24 (.958) free throws at Hinkle Fieldhouse this year.

•Gordon Hayward is averaging 20.3 points in four games at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He did not have a 20-point scoring performance at the Fieldhouse last year.

•Shelvin Mack has had 11 straight games in double-figures, after opening the season with just seven points against Davidson.  Mack has scored at least 15 points in six games this season.

•Shelvin Mack had a career-high eight assists in each of Butler’s two games against Green Bay last season.

•Senior Willie Veasley is averaging 14.5 points in four games at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.  He’s hit his season-high of 15 points in three of the four home games.

•Sophomore Ronald Nored ranks sixth in the Horizon League in steals (1.8).  He’s had 12 steals in Butler’s last five games,

•Freshman Andrew Smith scored his first collegiate points with a pair of free throws in a brief reserve stint at UAB. 

•Redshirt freshman Chase Stigall has been sidelined since suffering a sprained right knee in Butler’s win at Ball State.  He’s expected back for this week’s games.