November 12, 2008

Bulldogs Open 2008-09 Campaign At Drake

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SEASON OPENER: For the fourth straight year, Butler will begin its men's basketball season on the road when it opens the 2008-09 campaign at Drake on Saturday, Nov. 15. The game, a rematch of last year's BracketBusters contest in Indianapolis, is slated for 7 p.m. (CT, 8 p.m. in Indianapolis) at the Knapp Center in Des Moines, Iowa. Both teams were nationally-ranked when they met last February in a nationally-televised game at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Drake, ranked #16/#18, came from behind in the final 10 minutes and used a 7-2 scoring run in the final 20 seconds to secure a 71-64 victory over then-#8 Butler. The setback was Butler's lone homecourt loss during a 30-4 campaign that ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Butler has won its last two season-openers, 77-37 at Tulane in 2006 and 61-45 at Ball State last year.

Butler is playing a men's basketball game in Iowa for the first time since 2003, when the Bulldogs defeated Northern Iowa, 56-54.

SERIES STUFF: Butler and Drake are meeting for the eighth time as basketball opponents. Drake has won the last three meetings between the two teams, but Butler leads the overall series, 4-3...Butler was a member of the Missouri Valley Conference, along with Drake, from 1932-34. The two teams met four times during those two seasons with Butler winning all four meetings...Drake prevailed, 83-68, in Butler's last visit to Des Moines in 1972-73. Butler's last victory on Drake's homecourt came in 1933-34, 28-18.

A LOOK BACK: Josh Young scored 25 points and Leonard Houston added 16 to lead visiting Drake past Butler in last year's meeting at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The game was tied at 58 with 5:54 left, and Drake led 64-62 with 2:03 remaining before pulling away to the seven-point win. Both teams hit 24 of 54 shots in the contest, but Drake wound up making more free throws (18) than Butler attempted (16). A. J. Graves led Butler with 18 points, while Matt Howard chipped in with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Drake handed Butler its biggest margin of defeat (seven points) in 2007-08.

LAST TIME OUT: Butler raced out of the gate and never looked back, while rolling up a 91-52 victory over Oakland City on Saturday (Nov. 8). The game at Hinkle Fieldhouse was Butler's final preseason exhibition game. The Bulldogs led 14-3 less than four minutes into the game and stretched that margin to 26 points, 32-6, less than nine minutes into the contest. Butler pulled away to a 56-22 lead at halftime and coasted home with a 39-point win. All 14 players on Butler's roster saw action in the game, and all 14 cracked the scoring column. The Bulldogs, who defeated Marian by 30 points, 61-31, in their first exhibition game a week earlier, completed a sweep of their two preseason games.

ARC ATTACK: Graduation claimed 92% of Butler's three-point field goals from last season, but that fact was barely noticeable in the Bulldogs' victory over Oakland City. Butler hit 15 three-point field goals in the win, with eight different players contributing to the total. The Bulldogs nailed eight of 16 long-range shots in the first half and seven of 17 in the final 20 minutes. The 15 three-pointers were more than Butler hit in 31 of 34 games last season!

Butler led the Horizon League in three-point field goals (9.38) last season.

FRESH LOOK: Freshman Shelvin Mack led all players with 16 points in Butler's victory over Oakland City. The 6-3 guard hit four of six shots, all from beyond the three-point arc, and all four of his free throw attempts for his game-high total. Mack had 11 points, five rebounds and a team-high three assists in his collegiate debut against Marian.

FAMILIAR LEADER: 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. 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 in 2007-08. Howard finished with 12 points and four rebounds against Oakland City.

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

ASSISTED LIVING: The Bulldogs proved to be quick learners from their first exhibition game to their second. Butler had just eight assists on 21 field goals against Marian. That total climbed to 24 assists on 31 field goals against Oakland City! Butler had 16 assists on 19 field goals in the first half of the second exhibition game. Freshman Ronald Nored led the way with a game-high six assists, while sophomore Zach Hahn added five. Eleven different Butler players recorded at least one assist in the victory.

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.

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. Last season, Howard was named to the CollegeInsider.com Freshman All-America Team.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens had three freshmen - Shelvin Mack, Gordon Hayward and Ronald Nored - in Butler's starting lineup in each of Butler's two exhibition games. 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. The last time more than one freshman started a Butler exhibition game was in 1998, when head coach Barry Collier started both Rylan Hainje and Thomas Jackson against SKS Pakmet.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant hit four three-point field goals in 33 games in his first season with the Bulldogs a year ago. He came off the bench and hit that many long-range shots in 19 minutes against Oakland City! Vanzant hit four of five three-point field goal attempts and finished with 13 points in the exhibition win.

•Junior Willie Veasley had a game-high five offensive rebounds against Marian and a game-high three offensive boards against Oakland City. Veasley, a 6-3 forward, averaged 6.0 rebounds in Butler's two exhibition games.

•Butler out-rebounded Marian, 49-25, with five different Bulldogs recording at least five rebounds in the win. Matt Howard led the way with 11 rebounds, while Willie Veasley added seven. Freshmen Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored and Garrett Butcher each had five caroms.

•Junior forward Avery Jukes came off the bench and scored 12 points in 19 minutes to help the Bulldogs defeat Oakland City. Jukes averaged 8.5 points in Butler's two exhibition games.

•Freshman Ronald Nored had team-highs of eight assists and three steals in Butler's two exhibition contests.

•Ten different players averaged at least 12 minutes in Butler's two exhibition contests. Freshman Shelvin Mack led the way with 45 minutes (22.5) in the two games.

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

•The Bulldogs shot 87% (13-15) from the free throw line against Marian and 88% (14-16) against Oakland City. Sophomore Matt Howard led the way by hitting all eight of his charity tosses in the two wins.

•Last season, Butler coach Brad Stevens became the third-youngest NCAA Division I coach to guide his team to 30 wins, and the youngest in more than half a century! The 32-year-old Stevens is one of just 11 Division I coaches to have recorded a 30-win season before age 40.

•Butler had the most wins of any Division I team in Indiana for the third straight year last season.

•Butler's .882 (30-4) winning percentage last year ranked fifth in Division I, topped only by the Final Four teams - Memphis (.950, 38-2), Kansas (.925, 37-3), North Carolina (.923, 36-3) and UCLA (.897, 35-4).