Butler Hosts Valparaiso Saturday

2009-10 Butler Women's Basketball

Butler (8-5, 1-1 HL) vs. Valparaiso (4-9, 1-1 HL)

 

Saturday, January 9, 2010 - 2 p.m. ET
Indianapolis, Ind. - Hinkle Fieldhouse

 

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Bulldogs Host Valparaiso Saturday

The Butler women's basketball team aims to rebound from its first Horizon League loss when it hosts Valparaiso Saturday, Jan. 9 at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs have won six of eight, but are coming off a 75-70 loss to UIC. BU has won two of the last three against Valpo, including a 77-44 win at Hinkle Fieldhouse last season.

 

The Starting 5 - Butler's Top Storylines

 

1. Bulldogs Have Won 6 of 8: Butler, 5-1 in December, has won six of its last eight games. The Bulldogs' run started with a  77-41 win over Evansville and then went on to defeat Miami (Ohio) (68-60), Indiana State (67-60) and Cincinnati (65-48). The 36-point win over UE was Butler's largest margin of victory since 1999. It marked the third time the Dogs had won four straight non-conference games under Beth Couture. Butler also picked up double-digit wins over Ball State (82-67) and Loyola (72-53).

2. Stat Sheet Stuffer: Senior forward Melanie Thornton's athleticism has allowed her to contribute all over the floor this season. Thornton leads the team and ranks second in the Horizon League with 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She also leads the team in blocks and steals. The 6-foot-1 senior is coming off a career night against UIC, when she went for 24 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Thornton is averaging 20.7 points and 11.7 rebounds over the last three games.

3. Coach Couture's Battle: BU head coach Beth Couture successfully battled breast cancer during the offseason. She was diagnosed last April and after 16 weeks of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatments, Couture is back on the sideline for her 8th season at Butler. Couture's last treatment came just days before the season opener at Kentucky.

4. Bowen Is Scoring: Junior Brittany Bowen, last season's leading scorer, has once again emerged as a go-to option on offense. Bowen is second on the team and fifth in the Horizon League with 14.2 points per game while shooting .524 from the floor and .415 from 3-point range. The Columbus, Ind., native scored 20 points vs. Ball State and has led BU in scoring six times this season, including a 25-point effort at Cincinnati.

5. Winning Despite Injuries: Butler's 6-2 streak is more impressive when you consider it's been done despite the Bulldogs being hit with injuries. Senior All-Horizon League forward Susan Lester injured her foot and elbow and missed two games. Key subs Devin Brierly and Becca Bornhorst have also missed time recently. Brierly hasn't played since Dec. 9 at Indiana State and Bornhorst is currently on crutches.

 

Susan Looks For Repeat: Susan Lester scored a career-high 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting against Valpo at Hinkle Fieldhouse last season. She made five 3-pointers and outscored the Crusaders 27-19 in the first half. The performance was six points shy of BU's single-game scoring record, which was set in 1984 and tied in 2001.

More On Mel: Melanie Thornton ranks in the top three in the Horizon League in five different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 12 points in each of the last seven games, and she has scored in double digits in nine of the 10 games she has played.

...Mel Moving Up List: Thornton is sixth in BU history with 93 blocked shots. She needs 13 more blocks to catch Kelly Kuhn (1998-01) for fifth in school history.

More On Bowen: Brittany Bowen has been BU's top scorer six times this season. She tied her career high with 25 points at Cincinnati and also had 20 points against Ball State. She has posted team highs vs. Kentucky (16), IPFW (17), Evansville (19), Miami (Ohio) (18). Against MU, Bowen had 18 points and 10 rebounds, her second career double-double. Bowen is among the Horizon League leaders in five different categories (see page 4).

Butler Vs. Valparaiso: The Bulldogs are 16-5 all-time vs. Valpo, including wins in two of the past three meetings. Butler won nine straight games in the series from 1984-2000. The two teams have split four games since the Crusaders joined the Horizon League in 2007.

That's Offensive: BU's 82 points against Ball State on Wednesday was the season's highest total. The Bulldogs put up 81 points at Dayton. The 163 points over a two-game span is the program's highest since March 2007.

Party Like Its 2009: BU finished the 2009 calendar year with a 21-10 record. It was the team's best year since going 21-8 in 2007.

Couture Chasing Wins Record: Beth Couture continues her climb toward the school record for wins. She is just 11 wins shy of Linda Mason's (1976-84) school-record 124 wins. Couture needs one more win to tie June Olkowski (1993-99) for second place with 114.

Defense In Wins, In Losses: Butler's defense has been the deciding point whether the Bulldogs win or lose. BU is allowing just 55.4 points per game in wins, but allowing 78.2 points in losses. Scoring has been consistent in both wins (70.6) and losses (68.2).

Home Cooking: Butler is 5-1 at home this season, winning those games by an average margin of 13.5 points. BU is 20-7 in its last 27 regular season Horizon League homes games, dating back to 2007.

Pitt Heating Up: In Butler's first five games, Alyssa Pittman shot just .308 from the floor while scoring 7.4 points a game. In the eight games since then, the junior is shooting .397 and averaging 10.6 points per game. Pittman made seven 3s at Dayton and four treys each against Miami and Indiana State.

Hamilton Plays Solid At The 4: Chloe Hamilton, starting at the ‘4' spot this season, is having her best season as a Bulldog. She is averaging 6.7 points and 4.6 rebounds while playing 25.4 minutes per contest. The Michigan native has four double-digit scoring outings this season, including when she tied her career best with 12 points vs. Evansville. Hamilton also had 10 points vs. Syracuse, Ball State and Loyola.

Tall Dogs: This year's Butler roster is the tallest squad since Beth Couture arrived on campus in 2002. BU's average height is 5-10 2/3, just a bit taller than the 2007 team.

Make Them, They're Free: The Bulldogs are second in the Horizon League in free throw shooting, and much of that has to do with the team's recent solid shooting. BU is hitting 78.6 percent of its free throws over the last five games. Butler's 12-for-13 FT showing vs. Loyola was the team's best since 2005. BU is shooting 73.6 percent from the line in its six home games.

Bowen At The FT Line: Brittany Bowen, a career .825 free throw shooter, made 25 foul shots in a row before missing one vs. UIC. She is 30-for-32 dating back to November 21 at Saint Louis.

Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 7-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 1-5 when the other team shoots better.

Defending Well In First Half: Butler's achilles heel on Monday was its defense in the first half. Before the UIC game, opponents averaged just 27.8 points in the first half this season vs. Butler. The Bulldogs have held six opponents to less than 25 points in the first half: IPFW (21 points), UNI (16), Evansville (20), Miami (24), ISU (23) and Loyola (21).

Everyone Hits The Boards: In Butler's 13 games, the Dogs have been led in rebounds by five different players. Melanie Thornton has led the team in boards six times, Brittany Bowen three times while Susan Lester and Becca Bornhorst have each been the top rebounder twice.

Bornhorst Hurt: Becca Bornhorst, one of Butler's key post players, missed the last two games with a leg injury. Bornhorst, who has scored in double figures three times this season, will miss the next few games.

Here's A Stat To Watch: Over its last four games, Valpo is holding opponents to 50.5 points per contest. Butler is second in the Horizon League with 69.7 points per game and plays with a tempo that will test Valpo in a fast-paced contest.

X-Factor: Since entering the starting lineup at Dayton, Claire Freeman has scored just two points in four games. She came after a stretch that saw her score nine points twice and average 5.8 points per game. The freshman guard should be able to find her rhythm against a team focusing on Butler's other options.