Bulldogs Travel To UIC Thursday Night
2009-10 Butler Women's Basketball
Butler (19-8, 12-4 HL) vs. UIC (12-15, 9-7 HL)
Thursday, March 4, 2010 - 8 p.m. ET
Chicago, Ill. - UIC Pavilion
Bulldogs Travel To UIC Thursday Night
One game out of first place, the Butler women's basketball team continues its push for the postseason this weekend in Chicago. The Bulldogs will play at UIC Thursday night and at Loyola on Saturday afternoon. BU is 12-4 in Horizon League play, tied with Detroit in the loss column for second place. Butler split home games against the Chicago schools in early January, defeating Loyola but falling to UIC.
The Starting 5 - Butler's Top Storylines
1. Horizon League Race: Despite losing to league-leading Green Bay last Saturday, Butler is very much in the Horizon League race. Butler (12-4) is one game out of first and tied for second in the loss column with Detroit (13-4). Two wins in Chicago this weekend will give the Bulldogs the No. 2 seed in the Speedway Horizon League Championship. Butler has defeated Detroit twice and would own any tie-breakers with the Titans.
2. Hot Stretch: Butler has won 10 of its last 12 games, including seven straight before the loss to Green Bay. Over the last 12 games, Butler is shooting .455 from the floor and winning by an average margin of +11.9. Seven of the team's eight rotation players are shooting at least .373 during the stretch. Defensively, BU is allowing just 55.2 points per game, including holding five opponents to less than 50 points.
3. Coach Couture's Battle: BU head coach Beth Couture successfully battled breast cancer during the offseason, and she has been recently deemed 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.
4. 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 per game. She is also among the league leaders in rebounding (3rd, 8.4), steals (4th, 2.3) and blocks (2nd, 1.8). She is the only player in the league to rank in the top 5 in scoring, rebounding, blocks and steals. The 6-foot-1 senior has put up 10 double-doubles this season, and five in the last six games. Thornton is averaging 15.0 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 2.3 blocks while shooting .522 over the last eight games.
5. Winning Ways At Butler: BU needs one more win to reach 20 wins for the third consecutive season. That would be the first stretch of three 20-wins seasons since 1980-82. It would be the 13th 20-win season in the Bulldog history. Butler has already clinched its fifth straight winning season.
Butler vs. UIC: Butler leads the all-time series with the Flames, 24-18. Prior to UIC's 75-70 win at BU on Jan. 4, the Bulldogs had won five straight against UIC dating back to 2007.
First Meeting With UIC: Butler's comeback fell short in a 75-70 loss to UIC on Jan. 4. BU trailed by 17 early in the second half before Butler went on a 26-9 run to tie the game. Butler had the ball down 73-70 in the final possession but missed a desperation 3 with 2 seconds left.
Couture Ties Wins Record: Beth Couture, with 124 victories at Butler, has tied the school record for victories. Couture has now matched Linda Mason, who coached at BU from 1976-84.
More On Mel: Melanie Thornton ranks in the top seven in the Horizon League in seven different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in 20 of her last 21 games, and she has scored at least eight points in each game she has played this season. The senior has double-doubles in five of the last six games, including a 14-11 night vs. Green Bay on Saturday. Thornton scored a career-high 24 points with 13 rebounds against UIC on Jan. 4.
...Mel Moving Up: Melanie Thornton is fifth in BU history with 120 blocked shots, 19 short for fourth in school history. She is also battling teammate Susan Lester for a top 10 spot on BU's career steals list. Lester has 151 steals to Thornton's 147.
My Kind Of Town: Butler has won its last five games in Chicago. BU has won three straight at Loyola and the last two games at UIC.
Ball Control: Butler has taken good care of the ball this season, ranking in the country's top 70 with just 16.3 turnovers per game. Eight times this season, the Bulldogs have committed 14 turnovers or less. The Horizon League average is 17.5 turnovers per contest. BU is second in the HL with a +2.41 turnover margin.
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 on Jan. 30. In high school last year, Freeman hit a shot with :03 left to win the IHSAA 2A state title for Heritage Christian.
Lineup Change Paying Off: Following Butler's 13-point loss at Cleveland State on Jan. 14, Beth Couture changed the starting lineup. The change has paid off, as the Bulldogs are 10-2 and shooting .455 from the floor since the switch.
Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and top 35 in the country with a .437 field goal percentage this season. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent six times this season, converted on a season-high 53.5 percent (32-for-60) of its shots vs. Youngstown State on Feb. 11.
Depending On Defense: Butler's defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 19 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 53.4 points and .358 field goal shooting. In eight BU losses, the team is giving up 75.4 points per game and allowing .474 percent shooting.
In Butler's Defense: Butler has now held eight opponents under 50 points this season, winning all eight games. The Bulldogs are also 12-0 when holding teams to less than 60 points.
Chloe Solid At The ‘4': Chloe Hamilton, who has started the 26 games besides senior day this season, scored 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting at Detroit last week. The junior scored a career-best 16 points in her first career double-double vs. Wright State on Jan. 21. She also had 16 points at Green Bay on Jan. 28. Over the last 12 games, Hamilton is averaging 8.8 points and shooting .589 from the floor.
Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 17-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 2-8 when the other team shoots better.
Pitt Heating Up: Alyssa Pittman, who has made 205 career 3-pointers, is giving Butler the scoring the team has been looking for lately. The junior, who hit three big 3s at UDM on Feb. 18, scored 16 points on 7-fo-11 shooting vs. Milwaukee. ‘Pitt' is BU's second leading scorer in HL play (9.6 ppg) and is shooting 10-for-22 over the last three games.
Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. Lester is now 12th on Butler's all-time scoring list with 1,202 points, needing 12 more for 11th place. She is now sixth all-time with 744 rebounds and fifth in both 3-pointers made (132) and attempted (396). Lester recently moved into 10th on the all-time list for steals with 151.
Susan Being A Senior: Susan Lester has made key plays down the stretch in recent games. She made two FTs with two rebounds and a block in the final 1:55 against CSU on Feb. 13. Lester had two putbacks with Butler trailing late to help the Bulldogs win at UDM. She also made two free throws in overtime at WSU with Butler down one.
...And Making Her FTs: Susan Lester ranks fifth in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.833). The senior, a career .805 shooter at the line, has made 26 of her last 28 foul shots dating back to Jan. 16.
Senior Adieu: Butler recognized its four seniors - three players and a manager - Saturday vs. Green Bay. The two four-year seniors - Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester - have posted a 75-45 record and four winning seasons at BU. Amie Kabara has been a part of teams that are 59-30 coming into this weekend.
‘Terra-fic' At The Point: Much of the credit for Butler's low turnover numbers could go to point guard Terra Burns. The junior had a career-high nine assists against zero turnovers vs. Cleveland State on Feb. 13 and added four assists to one turnover at Detroit. Burns, who also had 12 points against the Vikings, has 51 assists against just 25 turnovers over the last 12 games.
Comeback Kids: In four of BU's last five games, the Dogs have had to make a late rally to win. Butler was down 66-61 with 4:38 to go before rallying with 11 straight points for a 72-66 win vs. CSU on Feb. 13. Detroit led BU 60-55 with 3:49 left before the Dogs finished the game on a 17-2 run. At WSU, BU trailed by 13 in the second half before winning in OT.
Start Me Up: Butler is 14-2 in the 16 games in which Devin Brierly has started this season. She has started the last 12 games (10-2) as well as four non-conference wins. Melanie Thornton is 17-5 as a starter and BU is 12-3 when Claire Freeman starts.
Here's A Stat To Watch: UIC shot .632 (19-for-30) in the first half against Butler on Jan. 4, helping the Flames to a 13-point lead. Butler would eventually get back into the game, but UIC's hot shooting in the first half was the difference.
X-Factor: Chloe Hamilton has played the best basketball of her career since the last time Butler and UIC played. She had 0 point and 0 rebounds against the Flames in the first meeting, and could be a key against a defense that will be trying to contain the league's No. 2 scorer.