February 17, 2009

Bulldogs Close League Road Slate At Milwaukee

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ROAD CLOSING: Butler, trying to rebound from its first Horizon League home loss this season, will close out its league road schedule when it visits Milwaukee on Wednesday, Feb. 18. The lone league test for both squads this week will tip at 7 p.m. (CT) at U. S. Cellular Arena in downtown Milwaukee. Butler (22-3) fell for just the second time in 15 league outings when it dropped a 71-67 decision at home to Loyola on Sunday (Feb. 15). The loss kept Butler from clinching a share of the Horizon League regular season championship. The Bulldogs lead the league race by two games over Green Bay (11-4) with three games to play. Milwaukee (14-11, 9-6 HL), coming off road losses at Green Bay, Youngstown State and Cleveland State, has won its last five games at U. S. Cellular Arena and is 10-2 at home this season. The Bulldogs won the first meeting between the two teams this season, 78-48, in Indianapolis last month.

20-PLUS: Butler has posted its 11th 20-win season in the past 13 years and its fourth consecutive. The Bulldogs have won at least 22 games in three straight seasons. Butler is tied with Memphis for seventh place in the NCAA Division I in winning percentage (.880), and only six teams in the nation have won more games than the Bulldogs.

Butler has tied the eighth-highest single season win total in school history.

POLL WATCH: Butler is ranked in the "Top 25" in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls for the seventh consecutive week. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 11 this season, dropped to No. 21 in the A.P. poll and No. 22 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, following last weekend's loss to Loyola. Butler was ranked in both national polls for a school- and Horizon League-record 19 consecutive weeks last year, and the Bulldogs have been ranked for 27 weeks under second-year head coach Brad Stevens.

NATIONAL LEADER: Butler shares the NCAA Division I lead in road victories with 10. Utah State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Niagara also have 10 road victories.

LAST TIME OUT: The Bulldogs missed their first seven free throws in the game, made just two of their first 11 (18%) three-point field goal attempts. That start left Butler trailing by as many as 18 points late in the first half and 37-23 at halftime. It was more than the Bulldogs could overcome. Sophomore Matt Howard did spark a Butler comeback in the second half, scoring 21 points in the final 20 minutes to help the Bulldogs to close to within two points, 69-67, in the final minute. But the Bulldogs came up empty on two possessions with a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the final 30 seconds. The loss was Butler's first at home since a 75-71 setback to the Ramblers in 2007, and it snapped Butler's 16-game homecourt winning streak.

Butler has not lost back-to-back games in the past 111 contests.

ON TARGET: Sophomore Matt Howard, who hit all six shots that he attempted while scoring 19 points in Butler's home win over UIC, missed his first two shots against Loyola. The 6-8 forward then proceeded to make 11 consecutive field goals, including all seven that he attempted in the second half. He finished the game with a career-high 30 points, seven more than his previous Butler high. Howard also shared Butler's rebounding lead against the Ramblers with nine, and he finished with a game-high three blocked shots.

Matt Howard is shooting .703 (26-37) in Butler's last five games.

WOODEN WATCH: Butler sophomore Matt Howard was named to the Midseason Top 30 candidates list for the John R. Wooden Award, presented to the nation's best player by the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Howard leads the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding, field goal shooting and blocked shots.

STRONG FINISH: Junior Willie Veasley shook off a one for four shooting start against Loyola and hit four of six shots in the second half, including two of three from beyond the three-point arc. He finished with 13 points, 10 of which came in the final period. Veasley, who's played a major defensive role for the Bulldogs this season, has posted four double-figures scoring performances in Butler's last seven games.

DEEP DEFICIT: The Bulldogs hit just six of 26 (.231) three-point field goal attempts against Loyola. It was Butler's second-worst, long-range shooting performance (minimum 15 attempts) this season. Butler hit four of 20 (.200) three-point field goal attempts earlier this year in a victory over Evansville. One game earlier, Butler connected on 13 of 32 (.406) attempts from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs are 14-0 this year when hitting at least nine three-pointers in a game.

Butler leads the Horizon League in three-point field goals (8.9).

ROAD WARRIOR: Freshman Gordon Hayward leads the Bulldogs in scoring on the road this season with a 16.2 average. The 6-8 wing player has scored in double-figures in nine of Butler's 12 road contests, including a career-high 25 points at both Ohio State and UIC. All five of his career 20-point scoring performances have come away from Hinkle Fieldhouse. Hayward is shooting .504 from the field, .535 from the three-point arc and .840 from the free throw line over Butler's 12 road games.

Gordon Hayward had a career-high four steals against Milwaukee last month.

CLASS OF ONE: Butler's Gordon Hayward is the only player in the Horizon League who ranks in the "Top 10" in the ten different statistical categories! He's fifth in scoring (13.8), fifth in rebounding (6.4), fourth in field goal shooting (.491), first in 3-point field goal shooting (.460), third in free throw shooting (.811), fourth in 3-point field goals (2.3), sixth in steals (1.6), eighth in blocked shots (0.9), third in defensive rebounds (5.0) and sixth in minutes played (32.2).

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler is ranked second behind Gonzaga in the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25. The Bulldogs had held the top spot for five consecutive weeks. Davidson, Butler's next foe, stands third.

•Butler's final regular season game against Cleveland State at Hinkle Fieldhouse has been selected as the Horizon League "wildcard" game and will be televised on ESPN2. The game will start at 12 noon.

•The Bulldogs have posted their third-highest total for Horizon League wins with 13. Last year' Butler team won a league-record 16 contests, while the 2002-03 Bulldogs won 14 Horizon League games. Only five teams in Horizon League history have won more than 13 league games.

•Sophomore Matt Howard was named Horizon League Scholar-Athlete of the Month for January, and he was chosen first team on the ESPN The Magazine/CoSIDA Academic All-District V Team. Howard is an honor student majoring in finance.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.547). Howard finished third in the league in FG% (.583) last year.

•Matt Howard, who had five blocked shots in Butler's games against UIC and Loyola, ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.6).

•Freshman Gordon Hayward continues to lead the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.460). He's hit 14 of 29 (.583) three-pointers in Butler's last five games.

•Freshman Shelvin Mack ranks second in the Horizon League in assist/turnover ratio (1.8), and he stands fourth in the league in assists (3.6).

•Sophomore Zach Hahn has come off the bench and hit 13 three-point field goals in Butler's last five games. He's shooting .542 from beyond the three-point arc over that five-game stretch.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant injured his left knee in his first minute of action at Detroit and did not return to the game. He has not played in Butler's past three games, and he remains questionable for this week's games.

•Junior Avery Jukes suffered a sprained knee in practice last week, and he sat out both Butler games last weekend. His status is being evaluated day-to-day.

•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+11.4). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (57.0) and in scoring offense (68.4). The Bulldogs also are leading the league in rebounding margin (+2.9), field goal percentage defense (.378) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.311).

•The Bulldogs are ranked fifth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense and sixth in field goal percentage defense.

•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in sixth place with 345 point, while Mack is ninth with 305. Butler's freshman scoring record is 476 points by Tony Warren in 1979-80. Hayward and Mack are the top-scoring freshmen in the Horizon League. Howard ranks fifth in scoring (13.8), while Mack is 11th (12.2). The two are the only freshmen among the league's "Top 20" scorers.