December 5, 2008

Bulldogs Close League Road Trip At Youngstown State

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ROAD WORK: Butler, coming off a thrilling last-second victory at Cleveland State, will continue its current road stretch with a second Horizon League test at Youngstown State on Saturday, Dec. 6. The Bulldogs will face the host Penguins in the Beeghly Center on the Youngstown State campus at 7 p.m. (ET). Butler stunned preseason league-favorite Cleveland State, 50-48, on a three-point field goal at the buzzer to begin Horizon League play on Thursday (Dec. 4). The victory snapped Cleveland State's four-game winning streak, while giving Butler it's sixth straight win to open the 2008-09 season. Youngstown State (1-5, 0-1 HL) dropped its league-opener at home on Thursday to Valparaiso, 68-51. The Penguins hit eight of their first 10 three-point field goal attempts and led by as many as 14 points in the first half, before Valparaiso battled back to grab the win. The Youngstown State contest is the second of four straight road games for the Bulldogs.

Butler Is 6-0 for the third straight year.

TRAVEL OHIO: Butler's game at Cleveland State was the first of four contests the Bulldogs will play in the Buckeye State during the month of December. Also on tap are game at Youngstown State (Dec. 6), Ohio State (Dec. 13) and Xavier (Dec. 23). The Bulldogs had just one win in Ohio a year ago, a 78-69 decision at Youngstown State.

The Bulldogs will play only two games at home in the next 35 days.

LEAGUE RUN: Butler has posted a 30-5 record in Horizon League play since the start of the 2006-07 campaign. Last season, the Bulldogs tied the league record for conference wins with 16, while capturing league regular season and tournament championships. Butler is the all-time leader in Horizon League victories with 232, including the last 14 in a row.

AUTUMN SUCCESS: Butler completed November with an unbeaten record for the third straight year. The Bulldogs have won 20 consecutive games in November, dating back to 2005. Butler's last November loss came at Big Ten foe Michigan, 78-74, on Nov. 26, 2005.

LAST TIME OUT: Sophomore Zach Hahn nailed a three-point field goal at the buzzer to lift Butler to a 50-48, come-from-behind upset of Cleveland State in a rematch of last year's Horizon League championship game. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as eight points in the game and were down 43-36 with four minutes left in the game. Freshman Gordon Hayward scored five consecutive points to trim Cleveland State's lead to two points, and the Bulldogs eventually tied the game at 44-44 on a lay-up by sophomore Matt Howard with less than a minute to go. Sophomore Shawn Vanzant gave Butler its first lead of the second half, 47-46, with a three-pointer at 0:19, but the Vikings answered with a J'Nathan Bullock field goal at 0:05.4.

GAME-WINNER: Sophomore Zach Hahn admitted after the game that he had never hit a game-winning shot in his basketball career. But he was the right player in the right place at the right time against Cleveland State. Hahn was inserted into the game with five seconds remaining and Butler trailing, 48-47. Freshman Gordon Hayward took the in-bounds pass on the play, dribbled to midcourt and then threw a cross-court pass to Hahn on the left wing. Hahn gave a shot fake to avoid one defender and then lifted up and launched a shot over a second defender. The ball curled through the net as the final buzzer sounded. It was the lone field goal of the second half for the Butler left-hander, and it was good enough to be deemed the "Play of the Day" on ESPN's SportsCenter.

Zach Hahn has hit six three-point field goals in Butler's past two games.

FRESH MARKS: Freshman Gordon Hayward made the most of his first visit to Cleveland State's Wolstein Center. The 6-8 wing player recorded career-highs of 12 rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots against the Vikings, while playing a career-high 38 minutes. He scored eight points in the contest, including five straight in the second half to help the Bulldogs overcome an eight-point, second half deficit. His 12 rebounds are the most by a Butler player this season.

NEW LEADER: Junior Willie Veasley scored nine points at Cleveland State and led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first time in his collegiate career. He hit a career-best two three-point field goals in the game and added a season-best three of four attempts from the free throw line. Veasley became the fourth different player to lead the Bulldogs in scoring in six games this season.

TOUGH POINTS: Butler and Cleveland State entered their showdown as the top two teams in the Horizon League in field goal percentage defense. They ended the game the same way. Butler managed to hit just 8 of 26 (31%) shots in the first half and shot just 32% (17-54) for the game. The Bulldogs limited Cleveland State to 14% (4-28) shooting in the second half and 26% (15-58) for the game!

FIRST DEFENSE: The Bulldogs have held each of their first six opponents this season under 60 points for the game. Butler limited Northwestern to a season-low 53 points and held Evansville to a season-low 59 points in back-to-back games last week, before limiting Cleveland State to a season-low 48 points. The Bulldogs have led the Horizon League in team scoring defense for three straight years.

THREE FOR ALL: Earlier this fall, a local newspaper wanted to stage a picture of the three-point field goal shooters who would replace graduated Butler marksmen A. J. Graves and Pete Campbell. Head coach Brad Stevens suggested lining up the entire Butler squad at the three-point line for the picture, sparking a few raised eyebrows (and mild dissent)! Six games into the season, 11 of the 12 active players on Butler's roster have hit at least one three-point field goal for the Bulldogs. Butler is averaging a league-best 8.0 three-pointers per game.

STEPPING UP: Butler improved to 11-2 in its last 13 games against schools from the BCS conferences last week. The two losses were to Tennessee in overtime in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament and national champ Florida in the 2007 national tournament. During that stretch, the Bulldogs have wins over Northwestern, Ohio State, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Maryland, Florida State, Tennessee, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech.

RATINGS GAME: The Bulldogs ranked No. 1 in this week's RPI, published by RealTimeRPI.com. Butler is ranked 25th in this week's Sagarin College Basketball rankings.

BULLDOG BITS:

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

•The five Division I teams that Butler has played this season currently boast a combined record of 22-9, with five of those losses coming to the Bulldogs.

•Sophomore Matt Howard finished the first half at Cleveland State with no points and no rebounds in five minutes of action. He played all 20 minutes in the second half and posted seven points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.

•Freshman Ronald Nored had career-highs of seven points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of action at Cleveland State. The 6-0 point-guard also matched his career-high with two steals in the game.

•Sophomore Shawn Vanzant matched his career-high with five rebounds at Cleveland State. He was one of five Butler players with at least five rebounds in the contest. The Bulldogs finished the game with a season-high 46 total rebounds.

•Butler is leading the Horizon League in scoring margin (+15.8), scoring defense (49.3), field goal percentage (.425), field goal percentage defense (.350), assist/turnover radio (1.1) and three-point field goals (8.0).

•The Bulldogs currently share the league lead in road wins (2).

•Butler head coach Brad Stevens announced that freshmen Chase Stigall and Emerson Kampen will redshirt this season. Stigall is a 6-3 guard from New Castle Chrysler High School, while Kampen is a 6-9 forward from Yorktown High School.

•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 head coach Brad Stevens used the first day of the NCAA Fall Signing Period to land local recruit Andrew Smith of Covenant Christian High School. The 6-10 center averaged 14.5 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots, while shooting 63% from the field last year. He helped lead Covenant Christian to a 15-7 record.