Matt Howard Interview (1070 The Fan)
ELITE SHOW: For the second consecutive year and for the second time in school history, Butler has advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championships. Butler will meet Florida in the round of eight at the New Orleans Arena on Saturday, March 26, at 3:30 p.m. (CT). The Bulldogs, who were seeded eighth in the Southeast Regional, became the first team in this year's tournament to earn a return visit to the Elite Eight with a 61-54 victory over No. 4 seed Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. It was Butler's second straight tournament win over a higher-seeded team. The Bulldogs had reached the Sweet 16 with a one-point win over top-seeded Pittsburgh. Florida, the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Regional, punched its ticket to the Elite Eight with an 83-74 win in overtime against No. 3 seed BYU. The Gators have eliminated Butler in two of the Bulldogs' previous seven visits to the NCAA Tournament
Butler is 8-1 in its last nine NCAA Tournament games.
SUCCESS STREAK: Butler has won its last 12 games, including three in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship. The Bulldogs' last loss came on Feb. 3 at Youngstown State, 62-60. The 12-game winning streak is Butler's longest of the season and the second-longest streak under head coach Brad Stevens.
The Bulldogs' current winning streak is the fifth-longest in Butler history.
WINS LIST: The Bulldogs have tied the fifth-highest single season win total in school history with 26 victories and have matched the third-highest number under head coach Brad Stevens. Butler has won at least 26 games in each of the past five seasons (including four under Stevens) and ranks second behind Kansas in all of college basketball with a 144-31 record over that five-year period.
LEAGUE LEADER: Butler leads all Horizon League members in NCAA Tournament wins with 14 since the league was formed in 1979-80. All other current members have combined for 10 wins during their time as league schools. Butler's Brad Stevens tops all coaches in the Horizon League with nine all-time NCAA Tournament wins.
LAST TIME OUT: Butler pulled away to a 20-point lead midway through the second half and then held off #16 Wisconsin to post a 61-54 victory in the Sweet 16. The win was Butler's second straight over a nationally-ranked foe, following the Bulldogs' 71-70 decision over #4 Pittsburgh in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs took the lead for good at 14-11 on a three-point field goal by Matt Howard midway through the first half and then stretched that margin to nine, 33-24, by halftime. Butler then held Wisconsin scoreless for the first five minutes of the second half, while pushing the lead to 18 points, 42-24. The Bulldogs took their biggest lead at 47-27 with 11:32 remaining on a lay-up by sophomore Andrew Smith. But the game wasn't over. Down 13 points with five minutes remaining, Wisconsin went on a 10-1 run to cut Butler's lead to four points, 53-49, with 1:38 left. A jump shot by Shelvin Mack and a free throw by Shawn Vanzant increased Butler's lead to seven, and the Bulldogs held on by hitting five of six free throws in the final 0:29.
Butler improved to 16-10 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.
MARCH GLADNESS: The Bulldogs improved to 16-3 in the month of March in four seasons under head coach Brad Stevens. Butler has won 11 straight March games, since falling to LSU in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.
SEEING DOUBLE: Senior Matt Howard led the Bulldogs against Wisconsin with 20 points and 12 rebounds. It was his ninth double-double this season and the 20th of his Butler career. The 12 rebounds are the most Howard has had in his NCAA Tournament career, while the 20 points are the second-most he's scored in 12 NCAA Tournament games (Howard had 22 points against LSU in 2009). The 6-8 forward, who has scored in double-figures in each of Butler's first three tournament games, is averaging 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds in this year's NCAA Tournament.
Matt Howard has led the Bulldogs in rebounding in 23 games this season.
FIRST DEFENSE: Butler limited Wisconsin to just 29 points in the first 30 minutes of the Sweet 16 victory and just 58 points for the game. The Badgers were averaging 68.4 coming into the game and had posted a 71.0 average in their first two tournament games. The Bulldogs held Wisconsin scoreless for the final 3:11 of the first half and the first 14:03 of the second half. Butler has held two of its first three tournament foes under 60 points, and the Bulldogs are yielding just 60.7 points in the three NCAA contests. A year ago, Butler held five consecutive tournament opponents below 60 points, before Duke scored 61 in the national championship game.
Butler has won 31 of its last 32 games when yielding fewer than 60 points.
SCORING STREAK: Junior Shelvin Mack posted his 19th consecutive double-figures scoring performance with 13 points in Butler's win over Wisconsin. During that 19-game stretch, the 6-3 Butler guard has averaged 17.0 points and led the Bulldogs in scoring nine times. He had a Butler NCAA Tournament record 30 points in the Bulldogs' victory over top-seeded Pttsburgh, and he's averaged 19.3 points in Butler's three tournament wins. Mack has scored in double-figures in each of his 10 career NCAA Tournament games.
PULLING RANK: Butler's victory over #16-ranked Wisconsin was the Bulldogs' second against a nationally-ranked squad in five days. The Bulldogs have seven wins in their last nine games against nationally-ranked opponents, with both setbacks coming to Duke. Butler has beaten eight nationally-ranked foes since Brad Stevens took over as head coach in 2007-08, including seven in NCAA Tournament play. A year ago, the Bulldogs posted back-to-back victories over #4 Syracuse and #7 Kansas State to win the West Regional and advance to Butler's first Final Four.
•Butler is the third team in NCAA Tournament history to beat a No. 1 seed before the Final Four in consecutive years, and the first two were seeded third or higher. UCLA beat No. 1 seeds in 2006 and 2007 as a No. 2 seed, while Duke turned in wins over a top-seeded team in 1988, 1989 and 1990. The Blue Devils were a No. 2 seed in 1988 and 1989 and a No. 3 seed in 1990.
•Matt Howard boosted his Butler career record for games started to 130 and his career mark for games played to 138. He also holds Butler's career record for most NCAA Tournament starts (12).
•Matt Howard stands second on Butler's all-time list for NCAA Tournament scoring with 134 points in 12 tournament games.
•Matt Howard, who's third in the Horizon League in 3-point field goal shooting (.440), had not hit a three-point field goal in nine NCAA Tournament games prior to this year. He's connected on seven three-pointers in Butler's first three tournament games this year.
•Matt Howard is the first player in Butler basketball history to grab 50 rebounds in NCAA Tournament play. The 6-8 Butler senior has 64 in 12 tournament games.
•Matt Howard has scored in double-figures in his last four NCAA Tournament games.
•Matt Howard posted his 102nd career double-figures scoring performance in Butler's win over Wisconsin.
•Shelvin Mack is Butler's all-time leading scorer in NCAA Tournament play. He boosted his career NCAA Tournament scoring total to 168 points in 10 games.
•Shelvin Mack, who had a tournament-high 10 three-point field goals in Butler's first NCAA Tournament two games did not hit a three-pointer against Wisconsin. It was just the second time this season that he failed to cash at least one three-point field goal.
•Shelvin Mack has hit a Butler record 30 three-point field goals in 10 NCAA Tournament games.
•Shelvin Mack is the first player in Butler basketball history to score 30 points in NCAA Tournament play. He's also the only player in school history to have two NCAA Tournament games of 25 or more points.
•Shelvin Mack stands in 12th place on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,463 career points. He trails Jon Neuhouser (1994-98) in the No. 11 spot on the Bulldogs' all-time chart by 22 points.
•Shawn Vanzant has nine assists and just two turnovers in Butler's first three NCAA Tournament games.
•Zach Hahn ranks 14th on Butler's all-time list for 3-point field goals with 141, two behind LaVall Jordan (1997-01) in the No. 13 spot and three behind Darin Archbold (1988-92) in the No. 12 position.
•Junior Ronald Nored holds Butler's all-time NCAA Tournament records for assists (29) and steals (19).
•Ronald Nored is one of three current Bulldogs who has led Butler in scoring in an NCAA Tournament game. Nored had a team-high 15 points in Butler's second round victory over Murray State last year.
•Andrew Smith briefly left Butler's game against Wisconsin after falling to the floor after grabbing a rebound. He later returned to the game and finished with eight points and six rebounds. He's expected to be available against Florida.
•Andrew Smith has led or shared the lead in rebounding for the Bulldogs in six of the last eight games and seven of the last 10.
•Freshman Khyle Smith came off the bench against Wisconsin with seven points and seven rebounds. He had six points and six rebounds off the bench one game earlier in Butler's win over Pittsburgh.
•Butler improved to 24-3 this season when leading at halftime.
•The Bulldogs are 49-3 under head coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-pointers.
•The Bulldogs have been yielding just 58.7 points during the team's current 12-game winning streak. Butler has held six of its last nine foes below 60 points.
•The Bulldogs are 7-1 on neutral courts this season, with the lone setback coming to #1-ranked Duke. Butler is 18-7 on neutral courts under head coach Brad Stevens.
Butler vs. Florida
•Butler and Florida are meeting for just the third time as basketball opponents and both previous meetings came in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators eliminated Butler from the national championship in 2000 and again in 2007.
•The Bulldogs, coached by current Butler Director of Athletics Barry Collier, took Florida into overtime in 2000, before falling, 69-68, on a shot at the buzzer by Mike Miller. It turned out to be the final game at Butler for Collier, who was later named head coach at Nebraska. Florida finished as national runner-up, losing in the championship game to Michigan State in Indianapolis.
•Butler and Florida met in the "Sweet 16" of the 2007 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship and the Gators prevailed, 65-57. Florida went on to capture it second consecutive national championship with an 84-75 victory over Ohio State.
•Current head coach Brad Stevens and associate head coach Matthew Graves were assistant coaches under Todd Lickliter the last time Butler and Florida met.