January 23, 2009

Butler Hosts Second Place Milwaukee In League Showdown

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WEEKEND CHALLENGE: Butler, holding a two-game lead in the Horizon League race, will host second place Milwaukee in a feature Horizon League showdown on Saturday, Jan. 24. The game between the league's top two teams is scheduled for 2 p.m. (ET) in Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler (17-1) improved to 8-0 in Horizon League play for the first time in school history with a 68-59 victory over visiting Green Bay on Thursday (Jan. 22). The Bulldogs' come-from-behind win stretched the league's longest current winning streak to nine straight games, and ended Green Bay's four-game winning streak. Milwaukee (12-7, 7-2 Horizon League) stumbled at Valparaiso, 63-51, on Thursday in the first game of its two-game road trip. The Panthers led by 11 points in the first half, but Valparaiso scored 26 consecutive points spanning halftime to secure the victory. The loss ended Milwaukee's three-game winning streak. Saturday's game will be the first of two regular season meetings between Milwaukee and Butler. The two teams will play again in Milwaukee on Feb. 18.

Butler's nine straight wins tie the ninth-longest winning steak in school history.

TOP DOGS: The Bulldogs own the best 18-game record and the best start in Butler basketball history. Seven previous Butler teams boasted a 16-2 record through 18 games.

HOME SECURITY: Butler is 9-0 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and the Bulldogs have won 13 straight games on their homecourt since dropping a decision to nationally-ranked Drake in last year's BracketBusters game. The Bulldogs boast wins in 51 of their last 55 contests in the Fieldhouse, including 30 of their last 31 Horizon League games. Butler is 119-15 (.888) at home since 1999-00.

POLL CLIMBING: Butler is ranked in the "Top 20" of both major national polls for the second consecutive week. The Bulldogs are No. 16 in this week's Associated Press (A.P.) national poll and No. 17 in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Butler was ranked in both polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year.

LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs used their second-biggest second-half scoring output of the season to capture a nine-point victory over Green Bay. Trailing 25-22 at halftime, Butler exploded for 46 points in the final 20 minutes to secure the comeback win. The 46 points were the most scored by the Bulldogs in one half against a Division I opponent this season and trailed only the 48 points Butler scored in the against NAIA foe IU-South Bend for the most second-half points this season. Forward Matt Howard scored seven consecutive points midway through the second half to give Butler a 41-35 lead, and the Bulldogs maintained an advantage for the rest of the game. Butler made just nine of its first 34 shots in the game, but finished by hitting 13 of its final 16 field goal attempts.

Butler has 17 wins for the 12th time in 14 years and for the 25th time in school history.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: Sophomore Matt Howard scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the second half to spark Butler's come-from-behind victory over Green Bay. Howard hit three of five shots from the field and four of six from the free throw line in the final 20 minutes to help ignite the Bulldogs. The 6-8 forward also led all players with eight rebounds in the game, despite playing just 28 minutes because of foul problems. Howard has scored in double-figures in nine of Butler's last 10 games and in eight of Butler's nine games in Hinkle Fieldhouse. He's averaging a team-best 14.3 points at home this season.

Matt Howard has averaged 15.1 points over Butler's nine-game win streak.

GUARD `DOGS: Butler limited Green Bay to its lowest point total in the past 11 games and held the Horizon League's highest-scoring team 12 points below its season scoring average. Green Bay entered the game averaging 71.0 points and was coming off a 91-point performance in a victory over Houston Baptist. Butler also held Green Bay below its league-leading field goal and three-point field goal shooting percentages. The Bulldogs have held five consecutive opponents below 60 points.

Butler ranks third in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (56.0).

MATCHED PAIR: Butler freshmen Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward are separated by just one point after 18 games and during Butler's current nine-game winning streak. Hayward has scored 235 points (13.1) on the year, while Mack has chipped in with 234 (13.0). Over the past nine games, Mack has scored 116 points (12.9), while Hayward has added 115 (12.8). Mack leads the Bulldogs in assists; Hayward tops the squad in steals. Hayward is the team's top three-point field goal shooter; Mack is the squad's best free throw shooter. Mack has led the Bulldogs in scoring five times; Howard four.

LONG DISTANCE OPERATORS: The Bulldogs, who connected on nine three-point field goals in their victory over Green Bay, have averaged 10.3 long distance field goals in their last three outings. Butler hit 11 three-pointers in their win at Loyola and then cashed 11 more in a win at UIC. The 11 three-pointers are the most by the Bulldogs in Horizon League action this season and the third-highest total overall this year. Butler had a season-high 13 three-point field goals in a victory at Bradley and 12 three-pointers in a win over Florida Gulf Coast. Butler has hit 10 or more three-point field goals seven times this season.

Butler is 11-0 this season when hitting at least nine three-point field goals.

HANDLE WITH CARE: The Bulldogs had just three turnovers in the second half against Green Bay and just nine for the game. It was the fifth time this season that Butler had fewer than 10 turnovers in game. Butler is ranked in the "Top 20" in the nation in fewest turnovers per game (11.7).

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is ranked first in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for the second straight week. Saint Mary's (18-1) is ranked second in the mid-major poll, while Gonzaga (13-4) is ranked third.

•Butler has won 19 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 13 consecutive Horizon League contests in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

•Sophomore Matt Howard has connected on 30 of 43 (.698) field goal attempts in Butler's last seven games. Howard leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.521).

•Matt Howard is shooting .600 (39-65) in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

•Matt Howard was named Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Week for the third time this season, following Butler's wins at Loyola and UIC. Howard is an honor student majoring in finance.

•Junior Willie Veasley was hampered by early foul trouble in Butler's win over Green Bay, and he finished with nine points. The 6-3 forward has averaged 10.2 points over Butler's current nine-game win streak.

•Gordon Hayward, who hit two of five (.400) three-point field goal attempts against Green Bay, leads the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.471).

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+12.1), fewest turnovers (11.7) and three-point field goals (8.8). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (56.0), field goal percentage (.427), field goal percentage defense (.385), three-point field goal percentage (.367), rebounding margin (+2.8), assists (13.8) and assist/turnover ratio (1.2).

•Butler's duo of Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward are the top scoring freshmen in the Horizon League. Hayward ranks seventh overall in scoring with a 13.1 average, while Mack is tied for eighth with a 13.0 mark. No other freshmen are ranked in the "Top 20."

•The Bulldogs feature three of the top seven free throw shooters in the Horizon League. Shelvin Mack ranks third in the league (.815), Matt Howard stands sixth (.767) and Gordon Hayward is seventh (.765).

•Gordon Hayward ranks third in the Horizon League in three-point field goals (2.3), while Shelvin Mack ranks fifth (2.1). Both players hit a pair of three-point field goals in Butler's victory over Green Bay.

•Shelvin Mack has matched his career-high with eight assists in each of Butler's last two games. Mack leads the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (2.3) and ranks third in the league in assists (3.9).

•Gordon Hayward is the only player in the Horizon League who ranks in the "Top 10" in the league in scoring (7th, 13.1), rebounding (5th, 6.6), field goal shooting (6th, .473), three-point field goal shooting (1st, .471), free throw shooting (7th, .765), three-point field goals (3rd, 2.3), steals (7th, 1.7) and blocked shots (6th-tie, 1.0)! Hayward also ranks second in the league in defensive rebounds (5.1).