Bulldogs Open Postseason Play At Illinois State

Bulldogs Open Postseason Play At Illinois State

2009-10 Butler Women’s Basketball
Butler (23-9) vs. Illinois State (24-7) 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 – 8 p.m. ET

Normal, Ill. – RedBird Arena


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Bulldogs Open Postseason Play At Illinois State

In postseason for the second straight season, the Butler women’s basketball team will play in the WNIT at Illinois State Wednesday, March 17. The Bulldogs received the Horizon League’s automatic WNIT bid after the league got two teams in the NCAA Tournament. BU is 23-9 and finished second in the league standings and tournament. ISU is 24-7 and the Missouri Valley Conference regular season champion.


The Starting 5 - Butler’s Top Storylines

1. Postseason Play: Butler is making its second consecutive postseason appearance and second straight trip to the WNIT. It marks the first time since Butler came to NCAA Division I that the team has gone to the postseason twice in a row. The Bulldogs’ previous postseason appearances came in 1993 (NWIT), ‘96 (NCAA), ‘98 (WNIT) and 2009 (WNIT). Butler advanced to the WNIT second round last season, defeating Duquesne (59-58) before losing to Marquette (58-49). 

2. Player Of The Year: Senior forward Melanie Thornton was 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 6 in seven different categories, and in the top 4 in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. Thornton is currently second in the HL with 15.3 points per game and she is also among the league leaders in rebounding (3rd, 8.6), steals (4th, 2.4) and blocks (2nd, 1.6). The 6-foot-1 senior has put up 11 double-doubles this season. 

3. Hot Stretch: Butler has won 14 of its last 17 games, including 11 of its last 13. Only teams that made the NCAA Tournament have beaten the Bulldogs since Jan. 14. Over the last 17 games, Butler is shooting .450 from the floor and winning by an average margin of +11.4. BU’s offense has been balanced during that stretch, with five players averaging 8.1 points a game. Defensively, BU is allowing just 55.6 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 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 9.2 points per game and currently stands 10th on BU’s all-time scoring list. Junior Alyssa Pittman, a transfer from Eastern Michigan who scores 8.9 points a game, was voted to the league’s all-newcomer team.


Bulldogs Finish Second: Butler placed second in both the Horizon League regular season as well as the league tournament. After going 14-4 and finishing one game behind champion Green Bay, BU defeated Wright State and Detroit to get to the league tourney final. No. 4 seed Cleveland State knocked off the Bulldogs, 66-57, in the championship game. 

Three Postseason Teams: After CSU’s run of upsets got them into the NCAA tourney, Green Bay appeared to have an automatic WNIT bid but was awarded an NCAA at-large bid. It was the first NCAA at-large bid in Horizon League history. That gave the league’s automatic spot to the Bulldogs, making it three teams from the Horizon League appearing in postseason play. 

Butler vs. Illinois State: The Bulldogs are 1-1 all-time vs. the RedBirds, with the last meeting back in December 2003. Illinois State won that game at Hinkle Fieldhouse, 83-69, behind 27 point from Katie Donovan. Current Butler assistant coach Angel Mason started in that game and scored seven points. BU defeated ISU, 59-57, in Beth Couture’s second game at Butler. Mason scored 16 points in that game. 

Couture Is No. 1: Beth Couture, with 128 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. The record-breaking victory came at UIC on March 4. 

More On Mel: Melanie Thornton, the Horizon League Player of the Year, ranks in the top 6 in the Horizon League in seven different categories (see page 4). Thornton has at least 10 points in 24 of her last 26 games, and she has scored at least eight points in each game she has played this season. The senior has 11 double-doubles and was also named Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year. 

...Mel Moving Up: Melanie Thornton is fifth in BU history with 126 blocked shots, 13 short of fourth in school history. She is also battling teammate Susan Lester for a top 10 spot on BU’s career steals list. Thornton owns 161 career steals to Lester’s 153. 

Best Shooting All Year: Butler had its two best shooting nights of the season in the league tournament. BU shot 19-for-33 from 3-point range in its wins against Wright State and Detroit. Against WSU in the quarterfinal, Butler hit 9-for-15 from 3-point range. They followed that with a season-best 10-for-18 effort in the semifinal vs. Detroit. 

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 (.700) in league play over the last four seasons. 

All-Tournament: Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester were each selected for the all-tournament team. Over three games, Lester had 16.0 points and 6.7 rebounds a game while Thornton averaged 12.7 and 10.7.

Home Sweet Hinkle: Butler posted a 12-2 record at Hinkle Fieldhouse this season. BU went 4-0 at home in non-conference play and went 7-2 vs. league teams at home before winning Wednesday against WSU. Butler is 22-6 at home over the past two seasons. When combined with the nationally-ranked men’s team, Butler basketball was 27-2 in Hinkle Fieldhouse this season.

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, adding Brittany Bowen to the lineup and now Butler has won 14 of 17. 

Sharpshooters: As a team, Butler charts second in the HL and top 32nd in the country with a .437 field goal percentage this season. The Bulldogs, who have shot 50 percent six times this season, rank second in the Horizon League with 67.8 points per game.

Just Make Shots: Sometimes basketball is simple: just make shots. Butler is 20-0 when shooting a higher field goal percentage than its opponent. The Dogs are 3-9 when the other team shoots better. 

Depending On Defense: Butler’s defense has been the primary factor in whether BU wins or not. In 23 Butler victories, the Bulldogs are holding opponents to 53.5 points and .363 field goal shooting. In nine BU losses, the team is giving up 74.7 points per game and allowing .471 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 16-0 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 31 games besides senior day this season, has had her best season as a Bulldog. She is averaging 7.5 points and shooting .530 from the floor. She has 10 double-digit scoring games and had 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. 

Sixth Susan: Susan Lester was selected as the league’s sixth player of the year. The senior had 20 points off the bench in the league semifinal and led the team in scoring during the league tournament. She has come off the bench in 24 of her 30 games this year and averages 9.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. She has been solid down the stretch scoring at least eight points in 12 of the last 14 games. 

Susan Moving Up: Susan Lester continues to climb several career-record lists at Butler. With 18 points in the quarterfinal last Wednesday, Lester moved into 10th on Butler’s all-time scoring list. She now has 1,270 points, 50 shy of 9th in BU history. She is now fourth all-time with 776 rebounds and 5th in 3-pointers made (138) and 4th in 3s attempted (409). Lester is also 11th all-time with 153 steals.

...And Making Her FTs: Susan Lester ranks third in the Horizon League in free throw percentage (.848). The senior, a career .809 shooter at the line, has made 44 of her last 49 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 79-46 record and four winning seasons at BU. Amie Kabara has been a part of teams that are 63-31. 

Winning Ways At Butler: Butler’s 23 victories this season is the team’s highest mark since 1997-98. That team went 25-6 under June Olkowski. 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. The Bulldogs are currently top 50 in the nation in winning percentage (.719).

‘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 10 assists against Detroit on Friday. On Feb. 13 vs. Cleveland State, Burns had 12 points, nine assists and zero turnovers.

Scoring Balance: Butler has six players averaging at least 6.8 points per game as well as five Bulldogs scoring 7.5 a game. Melanie Thornton (15.3) and Brittany Bowen (11.1) lead the team in scoring followed by Susan Lester (9.2), Alyssa Pittman (8.9), Chloe Hamilton (7.5) and Terra Burns (6.8)

Sue One Of Only 3: In the final month of her Butler basketball career, Susan Lester has put her name among Butler’s all-time greats. She currently stands 10th in scoring and 4th in rebounding in school history. Lester is one of three players in BU history with 1,200 points, 700 rebounds and 150 steals in her career. Beth Piepenbrink (1979-83) and Elza Purvlicis (1980-84) are the other two.

Comeback Kids: Several times this season, 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 18-3 when Devin Brierly has started this season. She has started the last 17 games (14-3) as well as four non-conference wins. Melanie Thornton is 21-6 as a starter and BU is 12-3 when Claire Freeman starts.

Common Opponents: Illinois State and Butler have played six common opponents this season: Ball State, Milwaukee, UIC, Indiana State, Northern Iowa and Evansville. The RedBirds went 8-2 against those teams while the Bulldogs went 6-2.

Here’s A Stat To Watch: Butler was the Horizon League’s best at defending the 3-point shot until Cleveland State hit 7-for-13 in Sunday’s championship game. BU allows opponents to shoot .300 from beyond the arc, ranking second in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs will need to regain their defensive form against the RedBirds, who shoot .353 from 3-point range.

X-Factor: Rebounding. Butler isn’t a bad rebounding team, owning a rebound margin of +0.8. However, Illinois State is an outstanding rebounding team, boasting a +6.0 margin. Part of BU’s troubles against Cleveland State was a 40-34 rebounding disadvantage.