February 19, 2009

Bulldogs Visit Davidson For BracketBuster Tilt

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PRIME TIME: Butler, saddled with a two-game losing streak for the first time since the 2005-06 season, will step out of Horizon League play to face Davidson in a feature game of the Seventh Annual ESPNU BracketBusters on Saturday, Feb. 21. The game is scheduled for 12 noon at Davidson's John M. Belk Arena and will be televised to a national audience on ESPN. Both squads are looking to rebound from a conference setback. Butler (22-4) fell at Milwaukee, 63-60, on Wednesday (Feb. 18), just three days after dropping a 71-67 decision to Loyola at home. It marked the first time in the past 112 games that Butler dropped back-to-back contests. Davidson (22-5), playing without leading scorer Stephen Curry, fell at home to the Citadel on Wednesday, 64-46. It was just the second home loss for the Wildcats this season. The Bulldogs will return to league play and close out the regular season at home against Youngstown State (Feb. 26) and Cleveland State (Feb. 28).

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 entered this week tied with Memphis for seventh place in the NCAA Division I in winning percentage (.880).

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 wins.

LAST TIME OUT: Host Milwaukee used a 7-0 scoring run to break an 8-8 tie midway through the first half, and Butler was left to play catch-up for the rest of the contest. The Panthers led 29-23 at halftime and then opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take a 12-point advantage, 37-25. Milwaukee grabbed its biggest lead at 57-44 with 8:16 remaining, but the Bulldogs battled back and cut the margin to one, 61-60, on a three-point field goal by freshman Shelvin Mack with 1:36 left. Single free throws by James Eayrs and Ricky Franklin gave the home squad a three-point lead with 0:05.9 left, and that wound up as the final score, when the Bulldogs failed to get off a shot before the final buzzer.

Butler's four losses this season have come by an average of 4.8 points.

LEAD ROLE: Sophomore Matt Howard, Butler's lone returning starter from a year ago, led the Bulldogs in both scoring and rebounding for a third straight game with 20 points and nine rebounds at Milwaukee. That effort came one game after he scored a career-high 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds in Butler's home loss to Loyola. He also had 19 points and eight rebounds in the Bulldogs' home win over UIC. Howard hit 24 of 35 (.686) field goal attempts in the three games, including six of six in the victory over UIC. The 6-8 forward is averaging 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds over Butler's last five games.

Matt Howard is shooting .667 (28-42) in Butler's last five games.

RARE 30: Matt Howard's 30-point scoring performance against Loyola was just the third by a Butler player in the past decade and the first in regulation play. A. J. Graves tallied 31 points in an overtime game at UIC in 2006-07, and Rylan Hainje posted 31 points in a double-overtime game against Wright State in 2001-02. All three 30-point performances came in a losing effort.

CAREER EFFORT: Freshman Ronald Nored matched his scoring career-high with 10 points at Milwaukee. He scored all 10 in the second half, including six in the final 9:15. The Butler point-guard hit all four of his free throw attempts, and he led all players in the game with four assists.

DEEP DEFICIT: The Bulldogs entered this week ranked in the Top 10 in the NCAA Division I in three-point field goal made per game. But that ranking will likely slip when next week's statistics are released. Butler made just six three-point field goals in the home loss to Loyola and then managed just three long-range baskets at Milwaukee. Butler's three-point field goal leaders, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack, combined for just three three-pointers in the two games. 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 (8.7).

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 seventh in scoring (13.4), fifth in rebounding (6.3), sixth in field goal shooting (.486), first in 3-point field goal shooting (.453), third in free throw shooting (.814), fifth in 3-point field goals (2.2), sixth in steals (1.6), seventh in blocked shots (1.0), fourth in defensive rebounds (5.0) and seventh in minutes played (32.3).

ROAD TESTED: Gordon Hayward continues to lead the Bulldogs in scoring on the road with a 15.2 average. Hayward is shooting .496 from the field, .521 from the three-point arc and .846 from the free throw line in Butler's 13 games on opposing courts.

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 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's 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.

•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.

•Matt Howard leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.538). Howard finished third in the league in FG% (.583) last year.

•Matt Howard, who's had eight blocked shots in Butler's last three games, ranks second in the Horizon League in blocked shots (1.7).

•Matt Howard has moved into sixth place on Butler's list for career field goal shooting. The 6-8 sophomore is shooting .562 (253-450) over his first two seasons.

•Matt Howard matched his career-high for field goal attempts with 16 at Milwaukee.

•Freshman Gordon Hayward continues to lead the Horizon League in three-point field goal shooting (.453). He's hit 11 of 24 (.458) three-pointers in Butler's last five games.

•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, who injured his left knee in his first minute of action at Detroit, returned to action at Milwaukee. He played 14 minutes and had three rebounds and one point. Vanzant missed nearly all of four straight games.

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

•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+10.8). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (57.3) and in scoring offense (68.1). The Bulldogs also are leading the league in rebounding margin (+2.7), field goal percentage defense (.377) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.310).

•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in sixth place with 349 point, while Mack is seventh with 316. 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. Hayward ranks seventh in scoring (13.4), while Mack is 10th (12.2). The two are the only freshmen among the league's "Top 20" scorers.