January 4, 2007

Butler Puts Winning Streak On The Line At Wright State On Saturday

Jan. 4, 2007

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Game #14
Butler (5-8, 2-0) at Wright State (3-10, 1-1)

Date: Saturday, January 6, 2007
Time: 1:00 p.m. EST
Location: Nutter Center (11,019) Dayton, Ohio

Tip-Off: Butler will attempt to start the Horizon League schedule at 3-0 for the first time since the 1999-2000 season when it takes on Wright State on Saturday (Jan. 6) beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. The Bulldogs, riding a three-game winning streak, own a 20-12 all-time record against the Raiders, including an 8-7 mark in Dayton. Head coach Beth Couture touts a 4-4 record against WSU in her four seasons at Butler.

Butler Basketball on the Web: Cory Schnurbusch serves as the play-by-play voice of the Butler women's basketball team for the 2006-07 season. The broadcasts feature live game action on the web at www.ButlerSports.com and are offered for free. Butler also has streaming video available for all home and Horizon League contests during the year.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler (5-8, 2-0 Horizon League) has clamped down on defense during its current three-game winning streak, holding each of its opponents to fewer than 60 points during the run. The team continues to use the three-pointer as a large part of its scoring, with over a third (97-of-281) of its field goals coming from downtown. Senior guards Jackie Closser (12.3 points per game) and Ellen Hamilton (10.1 ppg) have each eclipsed 1,000 points in their careers this season and rank in the top six in the Horizon League in three pointers per game. Sophomore center Lade Akande has added a strong presence inside, leading the team with 13.1 ppg and adding 4.6 rebounds per game. Sophomore guard Tara Miller has provided an offensive boost with 12.5 ppg in four games this year, while junior forward Cassie Freeman adds a long-range threat from the post position with a .439 three-point percentage. Sophomores Candyce Brown and Candace Jones have each added depth on the perimeter, while freshmen forwards Susan Lester and Mel Thornton are the top post options off the bench. Head coach Beth Couture (312-191) is in her fifth season with the Bulldogs.

Butler Stays Hot With Strong Win Over YSU: All five starters scored in double figures, and the Bulldogs held Youngstown State to an opponent season-low 56 points as Butler claimed an 80-56 victory over the host Penguins on Dec. 30. The Bulldogs shot a season-best 51.8 percent from the field, and six players made at least one three-pointer in notching their second league win. Tara Miller led all scorers with 17 points, while Cassie Freeman (14), Ellen Hamilton (13), Lade Akande (11) and Jackie Closser (10) finished with double-digit points.

How Low Can You Go?: The Bulldogs have clamped down on the defensive end in their last three contests, holding Tennessee State (Dec. 20), Cleveland State (Dec. 28) and Youngstown State (Dec. 30) to under 60 points in claiming three-straight wins. Butler limited the Tigers to just 57 points on 35.8 percent (24-67) shooting from the field before keeping the Vikings to 57 points on a season-low 26.5 percent (18-68) a week later. The Bulldogs followed up those performances by holding the Penguins to an opponent season-low 56 points on 33.3 percent (19-57) shooting.

Off To a Great Start: The Bulldogs are off to a 2-0 start in Horizon League play for the second-straight season after defeating both Cleveland State (Dec. 28) and Youngstown State (Dec. 30). A win over Wright State on Jan. 6 would give Butler its first 3-0 conference record since the 1999-2000 season. Last year, the Bulldogs opened the conference slate by knocking-off Youngstown State and UW-Milwaukee before falling to UIC.

The Tara Miller Factor: Things have notably turned for the better since sophomore guard Tara Miller stepped onto the floor. In Butler's past four games since Miller's arrival in the lineup, the Bulldogs are averaging nearly 20 points per game more than in the first nine (77.0 to 58.7) and are holding opponents to over 10 fewer points per game (62.5 to 73.3). Miller has helped the cause since becoming eligible on Dec. 18 after transferring from Indiana last fall, averaging 12.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists.

...Or It Could Be Akande: Not to be lost in the Bulldogs' turn-around is the superb play of sophomore center Lade Akande. In her last four contests, the Pre-Season All-Horizon League First Team pick has averaged nearly double her point total from her previous seven (9.9 to 18.8).

...But Don't Forget Closser: Senior guard Jackie Closser has also returned to her all-league self in the past four contests, averaging 15.5 points per game and hitting 56 percent (14-25) from three-point range after scoring 10.9 ppg and converting just under 20 percent (13-66) from long distance in the first nine contests.

Moving On Up: After eclipsing 1,000 points in their careers this season, senior guards Jackie Closser and Ellen Hamilton continue to move up the Butler all-time scoring list. Closser currently touts 1,050 points in her career for 14th in the Bulldog record books and needs 31 to pass Angela Cotton (1,080) for 13th all-time. Meanwhile, Hamilton ranks 18th with 1,016 in her career and needs just four to move into 17th past Liesl Schultz (1,019). Closser became the 17th player in school history to reach 1,000 points at Louisville on Dec. 18, while Hamilton became number 18 at Cleveland State on Dec. 28.

Akande Brings It From The Paint: It's not all about shooting from long range for the Bulldogs, as sophomore Lade Akande can attest. The 6-1 center leads the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game despite not taking a single shot from beyond the arc this year. In fact, the Robinson, Ill. native has yet to shoot for three in 39 career games. She is currently second on the team and 10th in the Horizon League with a .417 field goal percentage.

Triple Threat: The Bulldogs have been nearly unstoppable from three-point range this season. Butler leads the Horizon League with 7.5 three-pointers made per game while ranking second with a .349 three-point percentage. The Bulldogs have been even better in league contests, pacing the conference with 9.0 per game at a .409 clip.

Hamilton And Closser Lead the Way: Seniors Ellen Hamilton and Jackie Closser have led the way for the Bulldogs from downtown this season. Hamilton has averaged 2.2 makes per game for fourth in the Horizon League, while Closser has converted 2.1 per game for the sixth-best rate in the conference.

...And Freeman Makes The Most Of Her Shots: Junior Cassie Freeman has taken advantage of just about every opportunity she has from behind the arc, going 18-of-41 for three and ranking second in the Horizon League with a .439 three-point percentage.

Jones, Miller and Lester: No, it's not a law firm; it's just an example of how many other options the Bulldogs have for pulling the trigger from three. Sophomore guard Candace Jones has hit 6-of-16 from three for a .375 shooting percentage, while sophomore guard Tara Miller netted 10-of-23 in her first four games with the team. Meanwhile, forward Susan Lester has added long range ability from the post position with five treys of her own.

Keeping it Going: With a pair of makes from three-point at Youngstown State on Dec. 30, Jackie Closser extended her consecutive games with a three-pointer to 41 in a row. So far this season, she is 27-of-91 from beyond the arc and is second on the team with 12.3 points per game. She made sure that every opponent got to feel her wrath from three-point last season, connecting from downtown in all 28 of her games played in 2005-06.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have had a rather difficult time attempting to pick the pockets of the Butler players this season. The Bulldogs have yielded 15.5 turnovers per game this year, the second-fewest in the Horizon League, and also rank second in assists-to-turnover ratio at 0.9. Butler's six turnovers against Air Force on Nov. 22 is also the lowest single-game total in the Horizon League this season.

Taking Advantage of Charity: It's not as if Jackie Closser is asking to go to the free throw line, but, when she does, she makes opponents pay. The senior guard is currently third in the league in free-throw efficiency, netting 35 of her 42 attempts for a .833 average.

Under the Radar: You won't find her in the Horizon League rankings, but sophomore guard Candace Jones has been nearly as strong as Closser from the free-throw line. Jones has converted on 19-of-24 shots from the stripe to lead the team with a .792 free-throw percentage, but she does not qualify for the league standings because her mark falls just below the league minimum of two makes per game. If her figures did count, however, Jones would be fifth in the conference standings.

Minute Minder: Jackie Closser must really enjoy time-outs, because she doesn't get too many other opportunities to catch her breath. The senior guard has played the full 40 minutes in five of 13 games this season and has played fewer than 37 minutes only three times. She currently leads the team and the Horizon League with 38.2 minutes per game.

...And It Could Be The Most Ever: Jackie Closser has spent a lot of time on the court this season, but she could end up spending more time on the floor than anyone else in Butler history. Closser has played 3,091 minutes in her career, the sixth-most all-time, and needs 517 minutes to pass Mary Majewski (3,607) for the most in school history. With 15 regular season games and at least one Horizon League Tournament game remaining, she will need to average just over 32 minutes per game to eclipse the mark.

Block Party: The Bulldogs are one of the top blocking teams in the Horizon League this year, ranking fourth with 3.0 blocks per game. Two Butler players also find themselves among the top five in the conference, with sophomore Lade Akande (1.4 blocks per game) ranking second and freshman Mel Thornton (0.9) tied for fourth.

Feeling A Little Rejected: You really couldn't blame Air Force if they felt a little intimidated by the Bulldogs in their game on Nov. 22. That's because Butler notched 11 blocks in the contest, the highest single-game total in the Horizon League this season. Six players contributed at least once, with junior Cassie Freeman touting a career-best and league-high four. Additionally, freshmen Julie Seiss (1) and Mel Thornton (2) picked up their first career put-backs.

A Little Bit Of Help: Jackie Closser has been extremely helpful to the Bulldogs on offense this season and during her career. The senior guard ranks third in the Horizon League with 4.2 assists per game and is second in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.90. She also touts 378 assists in her career, the sixth-most in school history, and is just four behind Jennifer Marlow's fifth-place total of 382. The school record of 584 is held by Melissa Kilgore.

...And A Big Help All At Once: Closser's 11 assists against Bradley on Nov. 17 were a career-high for the 5-5 guard and is a Horizon League season-high.

Butler Inks Quartet For 2007: High school stand-outs Azjah Bass, Terra Burns, Chloe Hamilton and Jenny Ostrom have all signed national letters of intent to attend Butler and play basketball beginning in the fall of 2007. All four have earned all-state accolades and are either approaching or have surpassed 1,000 points in their careers.

Lending A Helping Hand: The Butler women's basketball team took time out of their busy schedule on Nov. 4 to assist at the Special Olympics Area 8 Bowling Championships at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Members of the team and coaching staff helped out as lane assistants, runners and scorers for the event and presented the awards to the winners. Special Olympics Indiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities.

At The Buzzer: The Bulldogs return to Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time in nearly a month when they host UIC on Jan. 11 beginning at 7:00 p.m.