February 25, 2009

Butler Returns To League Play Against Youngstown State

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PARKING ADVISORY:
There is open parking on Butler's campus on weekends. Additional parking for the Butler-Cleveland State men's basketball game can be found on campus, at Clowes Hall and along Lake Road.

HOME CLOSING: Butler, coming off a 75-63 non-league win at Davidson in a feature BracketBusters match, returns to Horizon League action and will play its final two regular season games at home, beginning with a key test against Youngstown State on Thursday, Feb. 26. The game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will tip at 7 p.m. (ET) and will be televised locally on MyNDY 23. Butler (23-4, 13-3 HL) is trying to snap a two-game league skid and looking to wrap up its third consecutive Horizon League regular season championship. The Bulldogs currently lead second place Green Bay by one game with two to play. The regular season champ earns the right to host at least the league tournament quarterfinals and semifinals. Youngstown State (11-16, 7-9 HL) defeated Saint Peter's, 68-64, in the BracketBusters competition, and the Penguins have won five of their last six contests. The Bulldogs will close out the regular season at home against Cleveland State on Saturday (Feb. 28).

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

IN THE HOUSE: Butler is 12-1 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season, and the Bulldogs have won 16 of their last 17 home games. The Bulldogs boast wins in 54 of their last 59 contests in the Fieldhouse, including 32 of their last 34 Horizon League games. Butler is 122-16 (.884) at home since 1999-00.

POLL WATCH: Butler is ranked in the "Top 25" in both the Associated Press (A.P.) and ESPN/USA Today national polls for the eighth consecutive week. The Bulldogs, ranked as high as No. 11 this season, dropped to No. 24 in the A.P. poll and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, following a split in last week's games. 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 28 weeks under second-year head coach Brad Stevens.

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 23 games in three straight seasons.

LAST TIME OUT: Sophomore Matt Howard sparked a 10-0 run midway through the first half that gave Butler a 17-7 lead over host Davidson in a nationally-televised game, and the Bulldogs remained in front for the rest of the contest. Freshman Garrett Butcher broke a 7-7 tie with a lay-up, and Howard added eight straight points in the early run. The Bulldogs led 34-29 at halftime and then opened the second half with a 10-3 run take the lead back to double-digits. Davidson, featuring national scoring leader Stephen Curry, never got closer than 10 points in the final 17 minutes, and trailed by as many as 17 points in the closing minutes. Butler finished with 15 assists on 24 field goals in the victory.

Butler leads the nation (NCAA Division I) in road victories with 11.

SHOW STOPPER: Basketball fans who tuned into the Butler-Davidson game to watch national scoring leader Stephen Curry were treated to a prime time performance by Butler freshman Gordon Hayward. Playing in his first BracketBusters competition, Hayward led all scorers with a career-high 27 points and all rebounders with nine. He hit six of 12 shots, including four of seven from beyond the three-point arc, and 11 of 12 shots from the free throw line. The 6-8 forward added two steals and a blocked shot in 32 minutes of action. Hayward scored 17 of his points after intermission.

Gordon Hayward's 27 points were the most by a Butler freshman since 2004, when A. J. Graves scored 29 against Ball State.

GUARD DUTY: Freshman Ronald Nored matched his third-highest total for minutes played this season with 32 at Davidson. It must have felt like twice that many. Nored spent most of his afternoon chasing Stephen Curry, the nation's leading scorer. When the final buzzer sounded, Curry had 20 points, matching his fourth-lowest total of the season. He took 23 shots to reach his point total, including 13 from beyond the three-point arc, and he scored just seven points in the first 20 minutes. Nored finished with six points, four assists and three steals.

QUICK START: Sophomore Matt Howard scored 10 points in 10 minutes in the first half at Davidson and finished the game with 12 points, despite playing only 20 minutes because of foul problems. It was his fourth straight game in double-figures, and it boosted his season scoring total to 378 points. He currently stands 11th on Butler's chart for sophomore scoring, 14 points shy of Tom Bowman, 1960-61, in 10th place. Howard has averaged 18.0 points over Butler's last five games.

Matt Howard is the top sophomore scorer (14.0) in the Horizon League.

DEFENSIVE STAND: The Bulldogs held high-scoring Davidson 15 points below its season scoring average and kept the Wildcats to their fourth-lowest point total of the season and second-lowest total at home. Davidson, ranked sixth in the NCAA in three-point field goals per game, managed just six three-pointers in the game and shot just 25% from the three-point arc. Butler has held 22 of 27 opponents this season to 65 points or less, including 12 below 55 points. The Bulldogs rank eighth in Division I in field goal percentage defense (.378).

Butler ranks fifth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense (57.5).

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 sixth in scoring (13.9), fifth in rebounding (6.4), fifth in field goal shooting (.487), first in 3-point field goal shooting (.459), fourth in free throw shooting (.826), fifth in 3-point field goals (2.3), sixth in steals (1.6), seventh in blocked shots (1.0), third in defensive rebounds (5.0) and eighth in minutes played (32.3).

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, prior to last week.

•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, who hit five of eight shots at Davidson, leads the Horizon League in field goal shooting (.542). Howard finished third in the league in FG% (.583) last year.

•Matt Howard leads the Bulldogs in scoring at home this season with a 14.9 average. He's shooting .632 in Hinkle Fieldhouse.

•Matt Howard has moved into a tie for fifth place on Butler's list for career field goal shooting. The 6-8 sophomore is shooting .563 (258-458) over his first two seasons.

•Matt Howard ranks second in the Horizon League in both blocked shots (1.6) and offensive rebounds (2.7).

•Freshman Shelvin Mack matched his career-high with 37 minutes played at Davidson. He had nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in the victory.

•Junior Willie Veasley had 10 points and seven rebounds in a career-high 38 minutes at Davidson. He also matched his career-high with three steals in the game.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant, who injured his left knee in his first minute of action at Detroit, returned to action for Butler's games at Milwaukee and Davidson. Vanzant missed nearly all of four straight games.

•Junior Avery Jukes, who suffered a sprained knee in practice prior to the UIC game, has sat out Butler's last four games. His status is being evaluated day-to-day.

•Butler continues to lead the Horizon League in scoring margin (+10.9). The Bulldogs are second in the league in scoring defense (57.5) and in scoring offense (68.3). The Bulldogs also are leading the league in rebounding margin (+2.8), three-point field goals (8.6), field goal percentage defense (.378) and three-point field goal percentage defense (.307).

•Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack continue to climb Butler's all-time freshman scoring list. Hayward stands in third place with 378 points, while Mack is seventh with 325. 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 sixth in scoring (13.9), while Mack is 11th (12.0). The two are the only freshmen among the league's "Top 20" scorers.