November 20, 2007

Butler Faces Michigan At Great Alaska Shootout

Complete Release in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

NORTHERN ENCOUNTER: Butler will make its longest road trip of the season when it travels to Anchorage, Alaska, to participate in the Great Alaska Shootout, Nov. 21-24. The Bulldogs (3-0), coming off three consecutive victories over state foes, will face Michigan (2-1) in the opening game of the eight-team tournament on Wednesday, Nov. 21. The game at Sullivan Arena is slated for 7:30 p.m. (Alaska, 11:30 p.m. in Indianapolis) and will be televised nationally on ESPN2. Butler and Michigan will be facing each other for the third time in five seasons. The Wolverines defeated Butler, 61-60, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2003-04, and then captured a 78-74 decision in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 2005-06. Prior to the 2003-04 meeting, the two Midwest foes hadn't met on the basketball court for 34 years, and it's been 42 years since a Butler basketball team last defeated Michigan! The semifinals of the Great Alaska Shootout are scheduled for Friday, Nov. 23, with the finals slated for Saturday, Nov. 24. Butler, which has just three home games scheduled prior to Christmas, will play eight of its next 10 games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Butler won the 2001 Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks in its only previous visit to Alaska.

POLL WATCH: The Bulldogs are ranked in the "Top 25" of both major polls (A.P. & ESPN/USA Today) for the first time since last year's record-breaking season. Butler climbed to No. 22 in this week's A.P. poll (Nov. 19), up three spots from last week's rankings, and the Bulldogs have climbed into the ESPN/USA Today poll at No. 23. A year ago, the Bulldogs were ranked in the "Top 25" for a school- and league-record 16 consecutive weeks, including a first-ever "Top 10" ranking on Feb. 5.

The Bulldogs are ranked in the "Top 25" of both major polls earlier than any other team in Butler basketball history.

STATE RUN: The Bulldogs picked up back-to-back victories over Indiana foes last week, defeating Indiana State at home, 76-48, and then winning at Evansville, 60-47. Butler jumped to a 7-1 lead against Indiana State and stretched the margin to 13 by halftime. The Bulldogs sealed the wire-to-wire win by scoring 49 points in the second half. The start was reversed at Evansville, where the Aces jumped out to a 5-0 advantage and led 10-3 just over three minutes into the contest. The Bulldogs battled back and eventually tied the game and took the lead for good, 31-28, on a three-point field goal by A. J. Graves with six seconds remaining in the first half.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: Butler limited Indiana State to just 14 points on 20.8% shooting (5-24) in the first half. It was the second straight game that the Bulldogs held their opponent below 20 points in the initial period. Three days later, Butler held Evansville to just 19 points on 27.8% shooting (5-18) in the second half. The Bulldogs have held each of their first three opponents below 50 points.

Butler was fifth in the NCAA Division I in team scoring defense last year.

20-20: Senior A. J. Graves put together back-to-back 20-point scoring performances for the sixth time in his Butler career to lead the Bulldogs to back-to-back wins over Indiana State and Evansville. Graves put on a shooting clinic, hitting eight of 12 shots including six of nine from the three-point arc, and led all players with 26 points against Indiana State. He then came back with a game-high 22 points at Evansville. The 6-1 Butler scoring leader has never had three straight 20-point scoring performances.

A. J. Graves has 21 career 20-point scoring performances.

HONEST EFFORT: Senior Mike Green had a pair of workmanlike performances in Butler's wins over Indiana State and Evansville. The 6-1 guard finished with 15 points, a team-high eight rebounds, a team-best four assists, one steal and one blocked shot in the home victory over Indiana State. Three days later, he posted seven points, six rebounds, a team-high four assists and one steal at Evansville. He hit seven of 14 shots in the two games.

SWEEPS WEEK: Butler defeated Ball State, Indiana State and Evansville in the same season for the first time since 2002-03, when the Bulldogs finished 27-6 and reached the NCAA Sweet 16,

BACKCOURT STRENGTH: Butler's backcourt of seniors A. J. Graves and Mike Green was rated as the 14th-best backcourt in the NCAA Division I this season by Luke Winn of SI.com. Graves led the Bulldogs in scoring last year with a 16.9 average, while Green topped the team in rebounds (6.0) and assists (4.0), while finishing second in scoring (13.9). Graves was a first team All-League pick last season, while Green was named Horizon League Newcomer of the Year and second-team All-League.

ALL-AMERICA: Senior guard A. J. Graves was named to the 25-player, 2007-08 Preseason Mid-Major All-America Team by CollegeInsider.com. He previously was named to the 2006-07 CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major All-America Team at the end of last season.

THREE FOR THREE: Brad Stevens became the third straight Butler coach to begin his coaching career with three straight victories. Current Ohio State head coach Thad Matta began his coaching career with three straight wins at Butler in 2000-01, while current Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter started his career with three straight wins in 2001-02. Lickliter's three wins came in Alaska at the Top of the World Classic. Stevens worked under both Matta and Lickliter.

BULLDOG BITS:

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens has named all five seniors, Julian Betko, Drew Streicher, A. J. Graves, Mike Green and Pete Campbell, as his team captains for 2007-08.

•Julian Betko and Mike Green were in Butler's starting lineup for the 39th consecutive game at Evansville. A. J. Graves made his 93rd career start for the Bulldogs, Drew Streicher made his sixth career start and Pete Campbell made his third Butler start.

•A. J. Graves hit 11 three-point field goals in Butler's wins over Indiana State and Evansville, boosting his career total to 222. He's taken over second place on Butler's all-time list for three-pointers, 92 behind all-time leader Bruce Horan (2002-06).

•A. J. Graves has moved into 11th place on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,403 career points. He needs 36 points to crack Butler's all-time "Top 10."

•A. J. Graves has scored in double-figures in 11 straight games, dating back to last season. He has scored in double-figures in 78 of 99 games during his Butler career.

•A. J. Graves averaged 17.4 points in Butler's 21 games away from Hinkle Fieldhouse last year. He averaged 19.3 points in nine neutral court games.

•A. J. Graves will be playing his 100th career game when the Bulldogs face Michigan at the Great Alaska Shootout.

•Guard Mike Green has led the Bulldogs in rebounding in two of the first three games this season. He's topped the Bulldogs in rebounding in 18 games during his career at Butler.

•Freshman Zach Hahn scored a career-high seven points in 14 minutes at Evansville. The first-year guard hit three of four shots, including one of two from beyond the three-point arc.

•Freshman forward Matt Howard came off the bench at Evansville and led the Bulldogs with seven rebounds, despite playing just 17 minutes.

•Sophomore Willie Veasley sat out Butler's first three games, because of injury, but he may be available for limited duty this week. Veasley played in 35 games last season.

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens added walk-on Alex Anglin to this year's roster. A 6-4 sophomore, Anglin was an all-area performer at Kokomo High School. He's one of three walk-ons on Butler's roster, joining junior Ben Slaton, who earned a spot in 2005-06, and sophomore Nick Rodgers, who earned a spot last year.

•Head coach Brad Stevens celebrated the first day of the NCAA fall signing period by landing three talented Indiana high school players. The Bulldogs received signed commitments from 6-7 Garrett Butcher of Edgewood High School, 6-3 Chase Stigall of New Castle Chrysler High School and 6-7 Gordon Hayward of Brownsburg High School. A year ago, Butler added Matt Howard, Zach Hahn and Shawn Vanzant on the first day of the fall signing period.