Bulldogs Host Quarterfinal vs. Wright State Wednesday
2009-10 Butler Women’s Basketball
No. 2 Butler (21-8) vs. No. 7 Wright State (11-18)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 – 7 p.m. ET
Indianapolis, Ind. – Hinkle Fieldhouse
Bulldogs Host Quarterfinal vs. Wright State Wednesday
The Butler women’s basketball team will be the No. 2 seed and host No. 7 seed Wright State Wednesday evening in the Speedway Horizon League Women’s Basketball Championship. The Bulldogs, who went 14-4 in league play this season, have defeated the Raiders twice this season. The winner advances to Friday’s semifinals at the highest remaining seed.
The Starting 5 - Butler’s Top Storylines
1. Tourney Time: Butler finished 14-4 in Horizon League play and earned the second seed in this week’s league tournament. The Bulldogs, who were the No. 2 seed last year as well, will advance to the semifinals with a win Wednesday evening. No. 1 seed Green Bay is the likely tournament host this weekend. The Phoenix host No. 9 seed Milwaukee Wednesday night for the right to host the rest of the tournament.
2. Player Of The Year: Senior forward Melanie Thornton has been named Horizon League Player of the Year as well as the league’s defensive player of the year. The Carmel, Ind., native is in the league’s top 10 in seven different categories, and in the top 4 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. Thornton is currently second in the HL with 15.7 points per game and she is also among the league leaders in rebounding (3rd, 8.3), steals (4th, 2.3) and blocks (2nd, 1.8). The 6-foot-1 senior has put up 10 double-doubles this season, and five in the last eight games. She was also named this week’s Horizon League Player of the Week after averaging 21.0 point and 6.0 rebounds in a pair of Butler road wins last weekend.
3. Hot Stretch: Butler has won 12 of its last 14 games, including nine of its last 10. Over the last 14 games, Butler is shooting .453 from the floor and winning by an average margin of +12.5. Seven of the team’s eight rotation players are shooting at least .389 during the stretch. Defensively, BU is allowing just 54.8 points per game, including holding six opponents to less than 50 points.
4. 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. Butler went 3-1 in its pink uniforms and continues to wear pink Nike shoes.
5. Lester, Pittman Also Capture HL Awards: Senior Susan Lester was selected as the Horizon League Sixth Player of the Year for her efforts off the bench this season. She averages 8.4 points per game and currently stands 11th on BU’s all-time scoring list. Junior Alyssa Pittman, a transfer from Eastern Michigan, was voted to the league’s all-newcomer team.
Butler vs. Wright State: Butler leads the all-time series with Wright State, 25-15. BU has won four in a row against the Raiders dating back to 2008. The Bulldogs defeated Wright State twice this season, including a 77-61 win at Hinkle back in January. Butler is 2-0 against WSU in conference tourney play, with wins in 1996 and 2002.
This Year vs. WSU: Butler’s two games vs. WSU were quite different. Butler routed the Raiders on Jan. 21, opening a 20-point lead before winning by 16. Chloe Hamilton had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Butler. The Bulldogs struggled in the second meeting, having to erase a 13-point deficit to win 51-48 in overtime at WSU on Feb. 20.
HL Tourney History: The Bulldogs are 18-19 all-time in Horizon League tournament games dating back to 1990. BU has won the tournament once, defeating Green Bay in 1996. Butler is 5-7 in the league tournament under Beth Couture.
Couture Is No. 1: Beth Couture, with 126 victories at Butler, sits alone atop BU’s all-time women’s basketball wins list. Couture passed Linda Mason, who coached at BU from 1976-84 and won 124 games.
Conference Wins Record: Last season, Butler set a school record with 14 league victories. The Bulldogs matched that mark this season with a second consecutive 14-4 season. BU is 49-21 in league play over the last four seasons.
More On Mel: Melanie Thornton, the Horizon League Player of the Year, ranks in the top 10 in the Horizon League in seven different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in 22 of her last 23 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 nine games and was also named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year.
...Mel Moving Up: Melanie Thornton is fifth in BU history with 121 blocked shots, 18 short for fourth in school history. She is also battling teammate Susan Lester for a top 10 spot on BU’s career steals list. Thornton owns 153 career steals to Lester’s 151.
Ball Control: Butler has taken good care of the ball this season, ranking in the country’s top 60 with just 16.0 turnovers per game. Nine times this season, the Bulldogs have committed 14 turnovers or less. Butler had just nine turnovers Saturday at Loyola, a season low. BU is second in the HL and 49th in the country with a +2.69 turnover margin.
Home Sweet Hinkle: Butler posted an 11-2 record at Hinkle Fieldhouse during the regular season. BU went 4-0 at home in non-conference play and went 7-2 vs. league teams at home. Butler is 21-6 at home over the past two seasons, and BU has won 17 of its last 21 at home against Horizon League opponents.
Change Is Good: Following Butler’s 13-point loss at Cleveland State on Jan. 14, Beth Couture changed the starting lineup. The change paid off, as the Bulldogs went 10-2 and shot .455 from the floor with Terra Burns, Claire Freeman, Devin Brierly, Chloe Hamilton and Melanie Thornton starting. Couture has since made one more tweak to the lineup, starting Brittany Bowen last weekend and now Butler has won 12 of 14.
Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and 32nd in the country with a .437 field goal percentage this season. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent six times this season, converted on 31 of 64 shots last Saturday at Loyola.
...That Wasn’t The Case Feb. 20: Butler had its coldest shooting day of the year at Wright State on Feb. 20, but made big plays to pull out the win. BU made just nine baskets in regulation and ended up 11-for-41 (.268) in the victory. Butler also had 27 turnovers in that game but forced WSU into 32 turnovers.
Depending On Defense: Butler’s defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 21 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 53.3 points and .361 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 held nine opponents to less than 50 points this season, winning all nine games. The Bulldogs are also 14-0 when holding teams to less than 60 points.
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.
Chloe Solid At The ‘4’: Chloe Hamilton, who has started the 28 games besides senior day this season, has had her best season as a Bulldogs. She 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 and has 10 double-figure scoring performances. She scored 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting at Loyola last Saturday.
Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 18-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 3-8 when the other team shoots better.
Sixth Susan: Susan Lester was selected as the league’s sixth player of the year. She came off the bench in 21 of her 27 games this year and averages 8.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. She has been solid down the stretch scoring at least eight points in nine of the last 11 games.
Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. Lester moved into 11th on Butler’s all-time scoring list with 1,222 points. She is now sixth all-time with 756 rebounds and fifth in both 3-pointers made (133) and attempted (401). Lester is also 11th all-time with 151 steals.
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. On Feb. 20 at WSU, she made two free throws in overtime with Butler down one. Last Thursday at UIC, she made two FTs with :28 left to give Butler a 62-59 lead.
...And Making Her FTs: Susan Lester ranks fourth in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.838). The senior, a career .807 shooter at the line, has made 33 of her last 36 foul shots dating back to Jan. 16.
Senior Adieu: Butler recognized its four seniors - three players and a manager - vs. Green Bay on Feb. 27. The two four-year seniors - Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester - have posted a 77-45 record and four winning seasons at BU. Amie Kabara has been a part of teams that are 61-30.
Winning Ways At Butler: Butler’s 21 victories this season is the team’s highest mark since 1997-98. BU has also clinched its third consecutive 20-win season, the first such stretch since 1980-82. This season is the 13th 20-win season for the Dogs, who have had a winning record five years in a row. season. The Bulldogs are currently 46th in the nation in winning percentage (.724).
‘Terra-fic’ At The Point: Much of the credit for Butler’s low turnover numbers and high scoring 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 59 assists against just 33 turnovers over the last 14 games.
Scoring Balance: Butler has six players averaging at least 7.0 points per game. Melanie Thornton (15.7) and Brittany Bowen (11.3) lead the team in scoring followed by Alyssa Pittman (9.0), Susan Lester (8.4), Chloe Hamilton (7.8) and Terra Burns (7.0) Wright State is also balanced, with six players averaging at least 7.2 points. However, that is probably due to their only dressing nine players.
Comeback Kids: In five of BU’s last seven 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. UIC led early by eight and led 31-28 at half before Butler rallied to win.
Start Me Up: Butler is 16-2 in the 18 games in which Devin Brierly has started this season. She has started the last 14 games (12-2) as well as four non-conference wins. Melanie Thornton is 19-5 as a starter and BU is 12-3 when Claire Freeman starts.
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.
Here’s A Stat To Watch: In the last meeting between these two teams, Wright State’s strategy (play physical) worked for most of the game. Butler struggled shooting and turned the ball over against vicious defensive pressure. The physical play eventually added up to 43 free throws for the Bulldogs, which proved to be the difference in the game. Butler shot 27-for-43.
X-Factor: After averaging 11.8 points a game from Feb. 13-25, Alyssa Pittman has scored just six points in the last three games. If she can regain her February scoring form Butler could be a tough out in this week’s league tournament.