Bulldogs Host Valparaiso In League-Opener
LEAGUE START: Just one month into the season, Butler will face its first Horizon League test when it hosts Valparaiso on Saturday, Dec. 3. The Bulldogs' lone league game prior to Christmas will start at 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse and will be televised on WNDY-TV. Butler has won five consecutive Horizon League regular season titles and three of the last four league tournament championships. And the Bulldogs were tabbed as the preseason favorite in this year's league race. But it's Valparaiso, under first-year head coach Bryce Drew, that boasts the better record heading into Saturday's opener. The Crusaders have won five of their first seven games, with both losses coming to "Top 25" opponents (#16 Arizona and #3 Ohio State). Valparaiso's start is its best since 2007-08. The Bulldogs improved to 4-3 on the season with a 98-53 victory over Oakland City on Tuesday (Nov. 29). Butler will return to non-league play on Wednesday, Dec. 7, when #11 Xavier visits Hinkle Fieldhouse. That game, which will be televised on ESPN, will start at 9 p.m. (ET).
Butler is 62-10 in Horizon League games under head coach Brad Stevens.
HOME TURF: Butler has seven of its first nine games this season at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs, who ended last season with a five-game homecourt winning streak, have wins in nine of their last 10 home contests, with the lone setback coming to No. 7 Louisville. Overall, the Bulldogs have won 31 of their last 34 Hinkle Fieldhouse games.
Butler is 60-6 at Hinkle Fieldhouse under head coach Brad Stevens.
OPENING WEEKEND: Butler and Valparaiso will be the final two teams to see Horizon League action. The league schedule kicked off with four games on Thursday (Dec. 1), and a full slate of league games is on tap for Saturday (Dec. 3). Butler was picked as the league's preseason favorite for the third straight year.
BUSY SLATE: Butler is coming off a stretch of five games in 11 days, including three games played on one day's rest. The Bulldogs had home games against No. 7 Louisville (Nov. 19), Savannah State (Nov. 21) and Gardner-Webb (Nov. 23) right before Thanksgiving and then visited Indiana on Sunday (Nov. 27). Butler wrapped up the active stretch with its game against Oakland City on Tuesday (Nov. 29).
HIGH OCTANE: The Bulldogs posted their highest point total in a decade, while rolling to a 45-point victory over Division II foe Oakland City. The 98 points were the most by a Butler team since the Bulldogs defeated Evansville, 101-65, in December of 2001. The Bulldogs shot 62% (18-29) in the second half against Oakland City, including 60% (12-20) from beyond the three-point arc. Butler's 56 second half points in the win were the most in one half since the first 20 minutes of the 2001 Evansville victory, when the Bulldogs tallied 58 points. Butler led 42-18 at halftime against Oakland City.
LONG DISTANCE: Butler's long-range attack, absent for much of this season, was on full display against Oakland City. The Bulldogs connected on 15 of 34 shots from beyond the three-point arc against the Mighty Oaks, including 12 of 20 in the final 20 minutes. The 15 three-pointers were the most by a Butler team since January of 2009, when the Bulldogs nailed 15 three-point field goals against Milwaukee. The last time Butler hit more three-pointers was at the Great Alaska Shootout in 2007, when the Bulldogs connected on 16 long-range shots in a victory over Texas Tech. Butler had been out-scored from the three-point line in four straight games prior to the Oakland City contest.
CAREER MOMENT: Freshman Andrew Smeathers, who had played just 18 total minutes in Butler's first six games this season, came off the bench and led the Bulldogs against Oakland City with 17 points in 14 minutes. The 6-6 guard hit five of seven shots from beyond the three-point arc and both of his free throw attempts for his team-high total. He hit three three-point field goals in a span of 0:46 to give Butler its biggest lead of the game at 98-51! Smeathers had scored just three points in Butler's first six games this season.
Andrew Smeathers scored the most points by a Butler freshman since 2008, when Shelvin Mack scored 18 against LSU in the NCAA Tournament.
DOUBLE TIME: Junior Andrew Smith (right) and freshman Kameron Woods each posted a double-double against Oakland City. Smith finished with 14 points and a carer-high 12 rebounds in 23 minutes against the Might Oaks, while Woods, getting his first collegiate start, wound up with career-highs of 10 points and 11 rebounds in 14 minutes! Woods led the Bulldogs with seven offensive rebounds, while Smith had six offensive boards. The two Butler players helped lead the Bulldogs to a 58-29 rebounding advantage in the game. The 58 rebounds were the most by a Butler team since January of 1995, when the Bulldogs also pulled down 58 boards in a victory over Sacramento State.
HELPING OTHERS: Senior Ronald Nored matched his season-high and edged closer to the "Top 5" on the Bulldogs' all-time assist chart with a game-high seven assists against Oakland City. It was the fifth time this season that the 6-0 guard has had at least five assists in a game. Nored currently stands in sixth place on Butler's all-time list with 341 career assists. He's 26 assists shy of former teammate Shelvin Mack (2008-11) in the No. 5 spot on the career list.
Butler All-Time Assist Chart
540 Thomas Jackson, 1998-2002
471 Tim Bowen, 1989-93
457 Jeff Rogers, 1994-98
411 Darrin Fitzgerald, 1983-87
357 Shelvin Mack, 2008-11
341 Ronald Nored, 2008-
323 Avery Sheets, 2002-06
316 Mike Green, 2006-08
316 A. J. Graves, 2004-08
310 Mike Monserez, 2001-04
Butler had 26 total assists on 35 field goals against the Mighty Oaks. The 26 assists were the most by a Butler team since February of 2007, when the Bulldogs compiled 27 assists in a victory over Cleveland State.
STEAL HANDS: Ronald Nored had a game-high three steals against Oakland City. It was the sixth time in seven games that the Butler co-captain has had at least three steals in a game. Nored has topped the Bulldogs in steals for two straight seasons, and he enters the Valparaiso game with 164 career thefts. Butler's all-time record is 207 steals, set by Thomas Jackson, 1998-02.
Ronald Nored has had a career-high five steals against Indiana (2011), Syracuse (2010) and Valparaiso (2009).
SCORING MODE: Junior Chase Stigall connected on a career-best five three-point field goals against Oakland City, and he scored a career-high 15 points in the win. It was the second time in the past three games that the 6-3 guard topped his previous scoring high. Stigall, who came off the bench against Oakland City, has scored in double-figures in four of Butler's last five games. He had just two games of 10 or more points a year ago.
COACHING LADDER: Head coach Brad Stevens, who's in just his fifth season at the Bulldogs' helm, currently stands fifth on Butler's all-time list for coaching victories. The young Butler coach enters this weekend's action with a 121-28 career record. Stevens' former boss, Todd Lickliter, is fourth on Butler's all-time list for coaching victories with 131 in six seasons, 2001-07.
CHALLENGING SLATE: Three of Butler's first 12 foes this season are nationally-ranked, and a couple others are on the "Top 25" radar screen. The Bulldogs, who played No. 7 Louisville on Nov. 19, will host No. 11 Xavier next Wednesday (Dec. 7). And Butler has a game at No. 19 Gonzaga coming up on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs already have played unbeaten Indiana and will face once-beaten Stanford on Dec. 22. Both of those squads were among teams receiving votes in the most recent national polls.
•Butler's Ronald Nored is one of 30 candidates nominated for the 2011-12 Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. The award is presented to one senior who has shown notable achievement in four areas of excellence - classroom, character, community and competition. Former teammate Matt Howard was one of 10 finalists for the award a year ago.
•Ronald Nored has been named to the 25-player Lou Henson Preseason All-America Team. The CollegeInsider.com team honors the top Mid-Major players in the nation. Nored joined Detroit's Ray McCallum as the lone Horizon League players selected to this year's preseason squad. Butler's Matt Howard was named the Lou Henson Player of the Year last season.
•Ronald Nored is averaging 6.2 assists and 3.0 steals per game in Butler's five home games this season.
•Junior Andrew Smith leads the Bulldogs and ranks among the Horizon League leaders in offensive rebounds with 20 (2.9) in Butler's seven games.
•Junior Chase Stigall is Butler's leading scorer at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. He's averaging 11.4 points in Butler's first five home games, including four double-digits scoring performances.
•Chase Stigall has hit 15 of his team-high 16 three-point field goals this season in Hinkle Fieldhouse. He's connected on nine three-pointers in his last two home games.
•Sophomore Khyle Marshall leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.674).
•Sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins made both of his free throw attempts at Oakland City, boosting his season free throw percentage to a team-best .900. Hopkins, who ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw shooting, has made his last 15 charity attempts.
•Sophomore Erik Fromm came off the bench with a career-high 10 points in 17 minutes against Oakland City. Fromm hit three of four shots from the floor and all four of his free throw attempts.
•Freshman Jackson Aldridge scored five points and posted career-highs of six rebounds against Oakland City.
•Freshman Alex Barlow may have been the most productive Butler player against Oakland City, recording career-highs of four rebounds and three assists in just four minutes.
•Senior co-captain Garrett Butcher did not play against Oakland City. Butcher, who was in Butler's starting lineup at Indiana one game earlier, is expected to be available for the Bulldogs' game with Valparaiso.
•The Bulldogs are 51-4 in regular season play under coach Brad Stevens when hitting nine or more three-point field goals in a game.
•Butler is one of just three NCAA Division I schools to win at least 25 games in each of the last five seasons. The other two are Kansas and BYU.
•Butler head coach Brad Stevens landed three recruits on the first day of the NCAA's fall signing period. Joining the Bulldogs' 2012-13 freshman class were 6-5 Kellen Dunham of Pendleton Heights, 6-3 Devontae Morgan of Tampa, Fla., and 5-11 Chris Harrison-Docks of Okemos, Mich. Dunham averaged 23.6 points and shot 43% from three-point range as a junior at Pendleton Heights High School, while Morgan averaged 17.3 points and 8.2 rebounds during his junior season at Tampa Prep. Harrison-Docks averaged 23.0 points at Okemos High School.