January 13, 2009

#17/18 Butler Begins Chicago Trip At Loyola

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WINDY CITY VISIT: Butler, coming off a sweep of two home games, will begin a two-game, Horizon League road trip to Chicago, Ill., with a visit to Loyola on Thursday, Jan. 15. The game at the Joseph J. Gentile Center on Loyola's campus is slated for 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis) and will be televised back to Indianapolis on WFYI Digital Television and on WHMB TV40. The nationally-ranked Bulldogs took sole possession of first place in the Horizon League with back-to-back victories at home over Wright State, 64-48, and Detroit, 54-50, last week. The two wins boosted Butler to 14-1 on the season and 5-0 in league play. Loyola (10-7, 2-3 HL) split a pair of league road contests last week, falling at Cleveland State, 76-50, before defeating Youngstown State, 68-57. The Ramblers, who boast a 6-2 record in the Gentile Center, have won eight of their last 11 outings, after beginning the season with a 2-4 mark. Butler will conclude its trip to the Windy City with a nationally-televised (ESPN2) game at UIC on Saturday, Jan. 17.

Butler is 5-0 in Horizon League play for the first time since 2002-03.

ROAD WORK: Butler leads the Horizon League in road victories with a 6-1 record, including a 3-0 mark in league play. The Bulldogs have won their last two road tests, including a 74-65 victory at #14 Xavier.

BEST STARTS: The Bulldogs have tied the best 15-game record in Butler basketball history. Butler's 1930-31, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2006-07 and 2007-08 teams also recorded 14-1 records. Two of those teams (2002-03 & 2007-08) posted 15-1 records.

POLL CLIMBING: Butler has moved into the "Top 20" of both major national polls for the first time this season. The Bulldogs climbed from No. 21 to No. 17 in this week's Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and from No. 20 to No. 18 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Butler was ranked in both national polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year.

LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs rallied from a halftime deficit and pulled out a four-point decision over visiting Detroit to remain unbeaten in Horizon League play. Freshman Gordon Hayward hit a long, two-point field goal with 1:40 remaining in the game to break a 50-50 tie, and Butler survived a last second field goal attempt by the Titans to pull out the victory. Detroit built as much as an eight-point lead in the first half and carried a four-point advantage, 26-22, to the locker room at halftime. The Bulldogs tied the game less than two minutes into the second half and eventually built as much as a six-point lead, 46-40, with just under seven minutes remaining. But the outcome wasn't decided until Butler's Matt Howard rebounded a missed shot by Detroit's Tryl Hartfield with 0:00.8 left on the clock. Howard closed the scoring with a pair of free throws.

Butler is 4-1 in games decided by four points or less.

LEADING ROLE: Sophomore Matt Howard had an assist on Butler's go-ahead basket against Detroit. He grabbed the rebound on Detroit's final shot attempt, and he converted a pair of free throws to settle the final outcome. And he led all players in the game with 15 points. Two days earlier, he led all players with 14 points in Butler's victory over Wright State. The 6-8 forward hit eight of 12 shots (.667) in the two wins and 13 of 17 free throws (.765). Howard has topped the Bulldogs in scoring in three straight games and in five of the last six contests. He also has led Butler in rebounding in four of the last seven outings.

Matt Howard has averaged 16.2 points over Butler's six-game winning streak.

MOVING FORWARD: Junior Willie Veasley narrowly missed his third consecutive double-figures scoring performance, finishing with nine points against Detroit. He was Butler's second-leading scorer in the game, and he grabbed five rebounds to share team rebounding honors with forward Matt Howard. Veasley has scored in double-figures in five of Butler's last eight games, and he's averaged 10.8 points over the Bulldogs' current six-game winning streak. The 6-3 forward had just four double-figures scoring performances in his first two seasons at Butler.

ROAD WARRIOR: Freshman Gordon Hayward has led the Bulldogs in scoring away from Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. Hayward, who had just five points in Butler's victory over Detroit, has averaged 15.0 points in seven road contests this season. He had a career-high 25 points in Butler's game at Ohio State, and he scored 20 points in the Bulldogs' victory at Bradley. The 6-8 forward has scored in double-figures in five of Butler's seven road contests this season. Hayward also has averaged a team-best 8.3 rebounds in the Bulldogs' seven road contests.

Gordon Hayward is shooting .508 from the field and .800 from the free throw line on the road this season.

FREE CHOICE: The Bulldogs connected on 20 of 28 free throw attempts in their victory over Detroit, including 15 in the second half. It was the sixth straight game that Butler has scored at least 15 points from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs made 19 free throws in their win over Wright State two days earlier. Butler is shooting .756 from the charity stripe over the past six games.

Butler has out-scored its opponents, 121-73, from the free throw line over the past six games.

MID-SEASON HONOR: Butler coach Brad Stevens, who's guided the Bulldogs to a 15-1 start, has been named the mid-season recipient of the Hugh Durham Award, presented by CollegeInsider.com. The award is given annually to the nation's top mid-major coach. Former Butler coach Todd Lickliter received the mid-season honor in 2006-07. The final recipient will be named at the Final Four in Detroit.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is ranked first in this week's CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. Saint Mary's (15-1) is ranked second in the mid-major poll, while Gonzaga (10-4) is ranked third.

•The Bulldogs are fifth in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) behind unbeaten Pittsburgh, Duke, Clemson and Michigan State (as of Tuesday, Jan. 13).

•Butler has won 16 consecutive Horizon League regular season games, dating back to last season. The Bulldogs' last Horizon League setback came at Cleveland State on Jan. 17, 2008.

•The Bulldogs have won eight consecutive Horizon League road contests.

•The Bulldogs, who held both Wright State (48) and Detroit (50) below 55 points, are ranked second in the Horizon League and sixth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (56.1).

•Butler hit a season-low two three-point field goals against Detroit, one game after hitting just seven three-pointers against Wright State.

•Junior Avery Jukes came off the bench and scored eight points in Butler's victory over Detroit. It was his highest total since Dec. 10, when he tallied nine points in a reserve stint at Bradley.

•Freshman Gordon Hayward matched his career-high and shared the team lead with four assists against Detroit.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+11.9), fewest turnovers (12.1) and three-point field goals (8.5). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (56.1), three-point field goal percentage (.370), three-point field goal percentage defense (.295), turnover margin (+2.8) and assist/turnover ratio (1.1).

•Butler's duo of Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack are the top scoring freshmen in the Horizon League. The two are tied for ninth in the league in scoring (12.3).

•The Bulldogs feature three of the top nine free throw shooters in the Horizon League. Shelvin Mack ranks third in the league (.795), Matt Howard is eighth (.775) and Gordon Hayward is ninth (.768).

•Butler boasts three of the top eight players in the Horizon League in three-point field goals made. Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack are tied for fourth (2.0) and sophomore Zach Hahn is eighth (1.5).

•Gordon Hayward is the lone player in the Horizon League to rank in the "Top 10" in the league in scoring (9th-tie, 12.3), rebounding (5th-tie, 6.5), field goal shooting (6th, .475), three-point field goal shooting (1st, .462), free throw shooting (9th, .768), three-point field goals (4th-tie, 2.0), steals (7th, 1.7) and blocked shots (8th, 0.9)!

•Sophomore Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in offensive rebounds (3.0) and blocked shots (1.3). He's tied for second in field goal shooting (.500) and for fifth in rebounding (6.5), and he ranks seventh in scoring (14.1) and eighth in free throw shooting (.768).

•Freshman Shelvin Mack stands second in the league in assist/turnover ratio (2.2) and seventh in assists (3.5).