Butler Hosts New League Foe Valparaiso
Jan. 2, 2008
EARLY SHOWDOWN: The 2007-08 Horizon League champion won't be determined on the first weekend of January, but that doesn't diminish the significance of Butler's first league home contest. The Bulldogs will host new league member Valparaiso on Saturday, Jan. 5, in a feature match-up between the two Horizon League teams sporting the best pre-conference records. The game is slated for 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler wrapped up its pre-league slate and improved to 12-1 with a 57-55 victory at Southern Illinois on Dec. 28. It was the Bulldogs' fourth consecutive win and 11th straight non-league victory. Valparaiso brings an 11-3 record, with all three losses coming to teams currently ranked in the "Top 25." The Crusaders fell at Vanderbilt, at Wisconsin and at top-ranked North Carolina, but the former Mid-Continent Conference squad already owns a victory at defending Horizon League champ Wright State and boasts a 2-0 league record. The Bulldogs, already having traveled more than 11,000 miles, will play three of their first four 2008 games at home.
Butler and Valparaiso last played as conference opponents in 1977-78.
POLLING PLACE: The Bulldogs remained at No. 16 in the Associated Press men's basketball poll and at No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, following last week's win at Southern Illinois. Butler has been ranked in the A.P. poll for eight straight weeks and in both polls for seven consecutive weeks. Last year, Butler became the first team in Horizon League history to be ranked in the "Top 25" for more than five weeks.
Butler has been ranked in the Top 20 for 22 weeks since November of 2006.
TOP DOGS: The Bulldogs are ranked No. 1 in The CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 and in the ESPN.com Mid-Major Top 10.
BEST STARTS: The Bulldogs have tied the second-best 13-game record in school history, trailing only the 13-0 mark of Butler's 2001-02 squad. Butler also opened with a 12-1 record in 1928-29, 1930-31, 2002-03 and 2006-07.
Butler's best 14-game record is 13-1, shared by five teams.
HOMECOMING: Butler will be playing its first home game since Dec. 19 and just its fourth home game of the season when it faces Valparaiso. The Bulldogs are 3-0 at home this year with victories over Indiana State, Ohio State and Bradley. Butler boasts a 99-14 record in Hinkle Fieldhouse since November of 1999.
Butler has won 26 of its last 28 games in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
WALK-OFF HOME RUN: Senior guard A. J. Graves has hit more than his share of big shots for the Bulldogs, but none bigger than his final attempt at Southern Illinois. With the Bulldogs trailing, 55-54, and just six seconds remaining on the clock, Graves took an in-bounds pass, raced up the floor and unleashed a jump shot from 30 feet away. The ball hit the back of the rim, the front of the rim and then rolled into the net as the final buzzer sounded, giving Butler a two-point victory. It was just the fourth non-conference loss at home for Southern Illinois since December of 1999.
The game-winning shot by A. J. Graves at Southern Illinois was selected as the ESPN "Play of the Day" for Dec. 28.
CHARITY FIRST: The Bulldogs out-scored host Southern Illinois, 21-3, at the free throw line. Senior Mike Green led the way by hitting 10 of 16 attempts from the charity stripe, while freshman Matt Howard added seven of eight from the free throw line. The Bulldogs went nearly 14 minutes in the second half without a field goal but kept pace at the free throw line. Butler had a 12-2 scoring advantage at the line in the second half.
Butler has made at least 20 free throws in four straight games.
DOUBLE TIME: Freshman Matt Howard notched his fourth consecutive double-figures scoring performance and his fifth in six games as a starter with 15 points at Southern Illinois. He hit all four shots that he attempted in the first half and then hit seven free throws in the second period. He also shared Butler's rebounding lead in the game with five. Howard has averaged 12.8 points since joining Butler's starting lineup at Detroit.
GREEN LIGHT: Senior Mike Green was held to a season-low six points in Butler's loss at Wright State on Dec. 8. In the four games since, Green has averaged 18.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists. The 6-1 point guard had a team-high 19 points, three rebounds and a team-high four assists in Butler's victory at Southern Illinois. It was his fourth straight double-figures scoring performance. Green has hit 38 of 48 (.792) free throw attempts over Butler's last four outings.
LOOKING LONG: The Bulldogs, who lead the Horizon League in three-point field goals, hit just six long-range shots at Southern Illinois, including just two in the second half. Butler's first three-pointer in the final 20 minutes came with just 3:05 left in the contest and the second was the game-winner at the buzzer. After hitting 10 or more three-point field goals in five of the first six games this season, the Bulldogs have reached twin-digits in three-pointers just once in the last seven games. The six three-pointers at Southern Illinois marked the second-lowest total of the season for the Bulldogs.
Butler leads the Horizon League in three-point field goals (9.92); Valparaiso ranks second (9.77).
Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring defense (57.1), scoring margin (+12.0), three-point field goal percentage defense (.308), turnover margin (+3.92), fewest turnovers (10.9), and assist/turnover ratio (1.18).
Senior guard A. J. Graves is ranked first in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (3.69).
A. J. Graves is second on Butler's all-time list for three-point field goals with 256, 58 behind all-time leader and former teammate Bruce Horan (2002-06).
A. J. Graves stands seventh on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,556 career points. He's the 39th player in Horizon League history to reach the 1,500-point plateau and the current active league-leader in career scoring. He's fifth in the league in scoring (16.3) this season.
A. J. Graves leads the Horizon League in free throw shooting (938). He led the league and finished second in the NCAA Division I in free throw shooting last year with a .948 mark.
A. J. Graves has scored in double-figures in 86 of 109 career games. He's scored 20 or more points in 23 games, including four this year.
A. J. Graves leads the Horizon League in minutes played (36.23), while Mike Green stands third (34.69).
Mike Green has scored 1,335 points during his collegiate career (641 at Towson and 694 at Butler).
Mike Green stands second in the Horizon League in assists (4.92). He's third in the league in assist/turnover ratio (1.94) and 16th in rebounding (5.4).
Pete Campbell scored nine points at Southern Illinois, his highest point total since suffering a sprained knee against Ohio State. He was Butler's second-leading scorer before missing three games with the injury.
Pete Campbell ranks second in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (3.30), and he's tied for fifth in the league in three-point FG% (.458).
Matt Howard is the top-scoring freshman in the Horizon League (11.8). He also tops all freshmen in rebounding (5.2).
Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in field goal percentage (.589). He's connected on 39 of his last 64 (.609) field goal attempts. Howard also ranks 11th in the league in free throw shooting (.797), and he's fourth in the league in offensive rebounds (2.38).
Matt Howard is averaging 15.7 points in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Matt Howard has 14 blocked shots through Butler's first 13 contests. Drew Streicher led Butler a year ago with 15 blocked shots.
Julian Betko has made 14 of 24 (.583) three-point field goals over Butler's last six games. Betko is shooting a team-best .465 (20-43) from the three-point arc on the season.
Julian Betko and Mike Green were in Butler's starting lineup for the 49th consecutive game against Bradley.