November 6, 2008

Bulldogs Host Oakland City In Final Preseason Test

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FINE TUNING: Butler's young Bulldogs will face their second outside challenge in a seven-day period when they host Oakland City in an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 8. The preseason contest is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs, who feature just one returning starter from last year's nationally-ranked, 30-4 club, successfully passed their first test with a 61-31 exhibition game victory over Marian on Nov. 1. The game marked the debut of six Butler freshmen, the Bulldogs' largest freshmen class in more than a quarter of century. The Oakland City contest will be Butler's final tune-up prior to the 2008-09 season opener at Drake on Nov. 15.

The Bulldogs will play Ball State in their 2008-09 home-opener on Nov. 19.

NEW LOOK: The Bulldogs, coming off the most successful two-year run in school- and Horizon League history, will have a very different look in 2008-09. Gone from the teams that won 59 games and seven championships over the past two seasons are five graduated seniors - A. J. Graves, Mike Green, Pete Campbell, Drew Streicher and Julian Betko. That quintet helped Butler to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances and 35 weeks in the "Top 25." This year's Butler team doesn't have a single senior, boasts only one player who has ever started a Division I game and includes six players who were competing at the high school level just eight months ago! Only one Butler player, junior Willie Veasley, has more than 35 collegiate games on his basketball resume.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: Head coach Brad Stevens quipped at Butler's tip-off luncheon that his squad this season is so young that, "I don't get asked how old I am any more." Stevens, just 32, is beginning his second season at the helm of the Bulldogs, following the most successful first-year campaign in Butler basketball history. In fact, only three coaches in NCAA Division I history - Bill Guthridge of North Carolina (34-4 in 1997-98), Bill Hodges of Indiana State (33-1 in 1978-79) and Jamie Dixon of Pittsburgh (31-5 in 2003-04) - recorded more wins in their first season as a head coach. Stevens became the third-youngest Division I coach to guide his team to 30 wins, and the youngest in more than half a century! He's one of just 11 NCAA Division I coaches to have recorded a 30-win season before age 40.

Brad Stevens became the first basketball coach in Horizon League history to record a 30-victory season.

FAMILIAR FACE: Sophomore Matt Howard, Butler's lone returning starter, led the Bulldogs against Marian with 14 points and 11 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. He hit four of six shots from the floor and all six of his free throw attempts. The 6-8 forward also sparked Butler's defensive effort with a pair of blocked shot. Howard was Butler's second-leading rebounder (5.5) and third-leading scorer (12.3), while starting 26 games a year ago. He had three double-doubles for the Bulldogs last season, recording a career-high 12 rebounds against both Michigan and Detroit.

Matt Howard became the first Butler freshman to post both 400 points and 175 rebounds last season.

GUARD `DOGS: The Bulldogs, who shot just 29% in the first half against Marian, turned to a familiar staple in their opening exhibition game. Butler's defense held Marian below 20 points in each half of the 30-point victory and limited the Knights to 24% shooting for the game. The Bulldogs held the visitors to 17% (4-24) shooting in the first half and 33% (7-21) shooting in the final period. Butler led the Horizon League in scoring defense (58.4) and three-point field percentage defense (.318) last year.

BOARDING PASS: The Bulldogs rolled up a 49-25 rebounding advantage against Marian with five different players recording at least five rebounds in the victory. Sophomore Matt Howard led both teams with 11 rebounds, while junior Willie Veasley chipped in with seven caroms. Freshmen Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher each finished with five rebounds. Ten different Bulldogs contributed to Butler's rebounding total. Butler had 18 offensive rebounds in the game, led by Veasley with five.

FRESH START: Freshman Shelvin Mack was one of two Butler players who scored in double-figures against Marian (joining teammate Matt Howard). Mack, making his collegiate debut, finished with 11 points, five rebounds, a team-high three assists and one steal in a team-high 25 minutes. The 6-3 guard shook off a cold-shooting first half to hit three of four shots in the second period, including both of his attempts from beyond the three-point arc.

ALL-AMERICA: Butler sophomore Matt Howard was named to the 25-player Preseason Mid-Major All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. Also named to the preseason honor squad from the Horizon League were Josh Mayo of UIC and J'Nathan Bullock of Cleveland State. Howard further was named first team Mid-Major All-America by CollegeHoops.net. He was the lone Horizon League player selected first, second or third team.

BULLDOG BITS: •Butler head coach Brad Stevens had three freshmen in Butler's starting lineup against Marian. The last freshman to start a preseason exhibition game for the Bulldogs was A. J. Graves, who was given the starting nod against St. Joseph's in 2004 after returning guard Avery Sheets underwent an emergency appendectomy.

•Junior Willie Veasley made his Butler debut against Oakland City two years ago. The 6-3 forward came off the bench with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals in 21 minutes of action. He all four shots that he attempted against the Mighty Oaks.

•Butler shot 50% (11-22) in the second half against Marian, after making just 10 of 35 (.286) shots in the first 20 minutes.