2009-10 Butler Women's Basketball
Butler (13-7, 6-3 HL) vs. Valparaiso (6-14, 3-6 HL)
Saturday, Feb. 6, 2010 - 8 p.m. ET
Valparaiso, Ind. - Athletics-Recreation Center
Bulldogs Travel To Valparaiso Saturday Night
The Butler women's basketball team, currently tied for third in the Horizon League standings, will take on Valparaiso Saturday, Feb. 6 at 8 p.m. The Bulldogs, coming off a last-second, 71-70 victory at Milwaukee, already own a 57-43 win over Valpo this season. The Bulldogs have won four of their last five games and are one game back of first place in the league.
The Starting 5 - Butler's Top Storylines
1. Horizon League Race: At 6-3 in HL play, Butler currently owns third place outright in the league standings (see page 4). League-leading Detroit, a team BU beat by 21 on Jan. 23, defeated Green Bay Thursday night to take the conference lead. A Butler win and a Green Bay win would bring the Bulldogs to a tie with the Phoenix for second place.
2. Coach Couture's Battle: BU head coach Beth Couture successfully battled breast cancer during the offseason, and as of two weeks ago she is officially cancer-free. 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. Butler's WBCA Pink Zone game for breast cancer awareness is Saturday, Feb. 13 vs. Cleveland State.
3. 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 third in the Horizon League with 15.2 points per game, and she is also among the league leaders in rebounding (5th, 7.7), steals (3rd, 2.2) and blocks (2nd, 1.6). She is the only player in the league to rank in the top 5 in scoring, rebounding and steals. The 6-foot-1 senior scored 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting at Milwaukee. She posted her team-best fifth double-double (17 pts, 10 rebs) vs. Detroit on Jan. 23.
4. Depending On Defense: Butler's defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 13 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 54.5 points and .370 field goal shooting. In seven BU losses, the team is giving up 77.9 points per game and allowing 48 percent shooting. In the previous meeting with Valpo, BU held the Crusaders to 43 points. The Bulldogs are 8-0 when yielding less than 60 points, and 0-6 when giving up more than 70.
5. In The Pink Zone: Butler's WBCA Pink Zone game is set for Saturday, Feb. 13 vs. Cleveland State. Although the official national WBCA Pink Zone week isn't for another week, Milwaukee had its Pink Zone game last Saturday in honor of Beth Couture, who defeated breast cancer in the offseason. Coach Couture, whose close friendship with UWM's Sandy Botham spurred the honor, was part of the pregame festivities and tossed a ceremonial jump ball.
Butler vs. Valparaiso: BU leads the all-time series between the two schools, 17-5, and the Bulldogs have won three of the last four meetings. The Bulldogs won a 57-43 defensive battle over the Crusaders back on Jan. 9. Melanie Thornton led Butler with 17 points and Brittany Bowen added 15. Valpo shot just 30.5 percent.
BU's Mini-Run To Close The Half: Valpo was playing Butler tough until Brittany Bowen and Alyssa Pittman each hit a 3-pointer in the final 52 seconds of the half to give Butler a 27-20 lead at half. With the momentum on their side, the Bulldogs would eventually build the lead to 18.
Trouble At The ARC: Valparaiso has won its last three games vs. Butler at the ARC dating back to 2004. BU's last win at Valpo came in 1989, 13 years before Beth Couture came to Butler.
Couture Chasing Wins Record: Beth Couture has moved past June Olkowski (1993-99) for second place on Butler's all-time wins list with 118. She is just six victories shy of Linda Mason's (1976-84) school-record 124 wins. BU's win over Wright State on Jan. 21 was Couture's 600th career game as a college head coach. She is 376-227 in her 21-year career.
Claire's A Big Shot: Although just a freshman, Claire Freeman has a track record of hitting big shots. Her jumper with 0.6 seconds left was the difference in BU's 71-70 win at UWM last weekend. In high school last year, Freeman sank a runner with :03 left to win the IHSAA 2A state title for Heritage Christian.
More On Mel: Melanie Thornton ranks in the top five in the Horizon League in six different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in each of the last 14 games, and she has scored at least nine points in each game she has played this season. The senior had 24 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and three blocks against UIC on Jan. 4. Thornton, who has five double-doubles this season, is averaging 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals in league play this season.
...Mel Moving Up List: Thornton is sixth in BU history with 103 blocked shots and needs two more to catch Kelly Kuhn (1997-01) for fifth in school history.
Ball Control: Butler has taken good care of the ball this season, ranking in the top 50 in the country (second in the HL) with just 15.9 turnovers per game. Six times this season, the Bulldogs have committed 14 turnovers or less. The Horizon League average is 17.6 turnovers per contest. BU is also second in the HL with a +2.80 turnover margin.
Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and top 50 in the country with a .439 field goal percentage. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent five times this season, have converted 48.9 percent of their shots over the past five games.
Sharpest Shooter: Brittany Bowen, who is second on the team in scoring (12.6), ranks among the league leaders in FG percentage (.517, 9th), FT shooting (.793, 6th) and 3FG percentage (.424, 4th).
Lineup Change Pays Off: After giving up 81 points at Cleveland State on Jan.14, Beth Couture inserted a different starting lineup to shore up the team's perimeter defense. The change has paid off with BU going 4-1 since the switch. Butler has also benefitted offensively from the lineup change, as the team is shooting .489 as a team in the last five games and has a victory margin of +10.6.
Chloe Solid At The ‘4': Chloe Hamilton, who has started all 20 games this season, tied her career high with 16 points at Green Bay. She reached that total on 6-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. She had her first career double-double vs. Wright State with 16 points and 10 rebounds. She also has two 12-point games this season.
Pitt Heating Up: Alyssa Pittman, who has made 194 career 3-pointers, is giving Butler the scoring the team has been looking for lately. The junior hit three straight 3s in the final 3:43 to bring BU back from a 9-point deficit at UWM. Pittman is averaging 11.2 points over the last four games while shooting .433 (13-for-30) from beyond the arc.
Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. Lester is now 14th on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,152 points. She is now sixth all-time with 698 rebounds and fifth in both 3-pointers made (131) and attempted (385).
Bowen At The FT Line: Brittany Bowen, a career .807 free throw shooter, made 25 foul shots in a row before missing vs. UIC on Jan 4. She is 42-for-50 dating back to November 21 at Saint Louis.
Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 12-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 1-7 when the other team shoots better.
That's Offensive: BU is second in the Horizon League in scoring with 69.0 points per game. The Bulldogs have scored at least 70 in a game eight times this season, while Valpo has done so once against D-I opponents.
Winning Ways At Butler: Butler is on pace for its fifth straight winning season. The Bulldogs have posted a winning record in each of the past four seasons, including 20 wins in each of the last two years. After going 14-14 in 2004-05, Butler posted records of 15-14, 16-15 and 20-10, respectively, before finishing 20-12 last season.
Here's A Stat To Watch: Valparaiso, led by posts Kelly Watts and Lauren Kenney, leads the Horizon League in rebounding margin (+4.1). The Crusaders grab nearly 71 percent of their defensive board opportunities, also best in the league. Butler may need to combat this in order to generate second-chance opportunities.
X-Factor: Susan Lester, Butler's first post off the bench, is a player to watch. The senior had 31 points against Valparaiso last year, including 27 in the first half. She had five points and nine rebounds in the previous BU-Valpo meeting, but was still rounding into form after a foot injury in the non-conference portion of the schedule.