January 9, 2009

League-Leading Bulldogs Try To Stay Perfect At Wright State Saturday

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GAME 15
Butler (8-6, 3-0 HL) at Wright State (6-8, 2-1 HL)
Saturday, Jan. 10 - 1:00 p.m.
Ervin J. Nutter Center - Dayton, Ohio

The Opening Tip: Winners of four-straight games and seven of its last nine contests, Butler tries for it's first 4-0 start in Horizon League play since the 1995-96 season when it battles host Wright State on Saturday (Jan. 10) beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the Ervin J. Nutter Center. The Bulldogs put their league-best 3-0 record on the line as it faces a Raiders team that has won their last two conference games.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Wright State will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. The game can be viewed for free by clicking the "Watch on HLN" link on the calendar at www.ButlerSports.com. The contest will also feature live stats through Gametracker, which can be viewed by clicking the Gametracker link on www.ButlerSports.com.

A Look At The Bulldogs: Butler will try to continue its recent defensive dominance when it takes on Wright State on Jan. 10. After battling through a challenging non-conference schedule that featured six teams which advanced to post-season play in 2007-08 - including nationally-ranked Ohio State - the Bulldogs have claimed convincing wins in their first three Horizon League contests, holding Cleveland State (46 points), Youngstown State (50) and Detroit (48) to 50 or fewer points. A duo of post players has been the driving force behind the team this season, as senior Lade Akande (12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (12.2, 8.1) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Strong defense and effectiveness on the perimeter have been two critical elements to the team's success this year, as seven of the Bulldogs' eight wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points and by scoring over five three-pointers. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (9.1 points, 20 three-pointers), junior Susan Lester (7.4, 11), senior Candace Jones (4.6, 13) and freshman Devin Brierly (4.5, 14) have helped the Bulldogs average 5.9 threes in their last nine games. Sophomore Terra Burns and senior Candyce Brown have provided strong defense on the perimeter as starters in the last four games, while senior Tara Miller and sophomores Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.

A Look At The Raiders: Wright State carries a 6-8 overall record and a 2-1 mark in conference play into Saturday's game after winning its last two league contests: a 72-55 victory at Loyola on Jan. 5 and a 54-44 decision over Valparaiso on Thursday (Jan. 8). The Raiders rank second in the league in scoring defense - holding foes to just 58 points per contest - and use an accurate 41.7 percent efficiency from the field to power their offense. Sophomore guard LaShawna Thomas leads the team with 13.4 points per game, sophomore guard Shey Peddy boasts 12.2 points and a team-best 3.8 assists per game and junior forward Erica Richardson touts a team-high 5.1 rebounds per contest. Head coach Bridgett Williams holds an 89-128 record in her eighth season with the Raiders.

The Series Against WSU: Butler's contest against Wright State on Saturday will be the 37th meeting between the two squads in women's basketball in a series that dates back to the 1982-83 season when the Bulldogs claimed an 81-62 victory in the first head-to-head showdown. After WSU tallied wins in the next two contests, the Bulldogs reeled off wins in 13 of the next 14 match-ups from 1988 to 1999. Since then, the Raiders hold an 12-7 record against Butler, including a 7-5 mark against Beth Couture and wins in both meetings during the 2007-08 season.

The Last Time Against WSU: Lade Akande erupted for a game-high 22 points, but the Bulldogs were unable to hold on to a five-point second-half lead, as visiting Wright State used a 17-5 trek late to claim a 65-60 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday (Feb. 21). Akande led all scorers with her team-leading seventh 20-plus point effort of the year on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. The remainder of the Butler squad, however, shot just 11-of-38 (28.9 percent) on the night, including a 0-for-9 stretch late in the second period that helped the Raiders rally for a seven-point advantage with 2:48 to play.

Battle-Tested: The Bulldogs will play a total of 10 games during the regular season against teams that advanced to post-season play during the 2007-08 campaign, including Cleveland State, Dayton, Evansville, Green Bay, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska and Ohio State. The Bulldogs have won three of the seven meetings so far, topping Evansville (70-52), Miami (86-81, 2OT) and CSU (55-46).

Butler Halts Detroit: Four players finished with double-digit scoring figures and the Butler defense held its fourth-straight opponent to 50 or fewer points, as the Bulldogs broke open what had been a closely-contested game in the early going to run away with a 71-48 victory over host Detroit on Thursday (Jan. 8) evening at Calihan Hall. Susan Lester led all scorers with 14 points off the bench, while Brittany Bowen (12), Melanie Thornton (11) and Lade Akande (10) each registered double figures in scoring.

Quite A Start: Butler's 3-0 start to league play is the program's best record to open the conference season since the 1999-2000 team defeated Cleveland State, Loyola and UIC before falling to (somewhat forebodingly) Wright State.

You're Number Two: With 1,540 points scored in her career, senior center Lade Akande ranks second on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. After entering the season in seventh place, Akande steadily climbed the chart before passing Elza Purvlicis (1,517) with her first bucket against Youngstown State on Jan. 5. The Robinson, Ill., native will need quite a strong finish to the season to catch record-holder Julie VonDielingen (2,018), needing an average of 31.9 points per game in the final 15 regular season games to break the mark. Akande became just the 19th player in school history to notch 1,000 points in her career early last season and quickly climbed up to seventh by the end of the year. She also became the first non-senior player to reach 1,000 points in her career since Marlow in 1997-98.

...And Making Other Lists: By pulling in 93 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande stands in seventh-place on the career rebounding list with 666. Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including blocks (122 - 4th) and field goals made (634 - 2nd).

Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over Detroit, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within seven victories of her 100th at Butler. Her 93 wins are the third most in school history. Additionally, Couture recorded her 350th collegiate coaching victory between Presbyterian College (258) and Butler against Youngstown State on Jan. 5.

Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, three of the Bulldogs' seven wins have come by margins of 30 or more points, including a dominant 43-point victory over Christian Brothers that ranks as the 15th-largest margin in school history. The 1998-99 Bulldogs were the last Butler squad to post three 30-point wins in a single season.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: With the win over Detroit, Butler is now 8-0 on the year when heading into the locker room with a lead at halftime.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 7-1 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

In Their Defense: Butler's defense has been crucial to the team's success this season. The Bulldogs rank third in the Horizon League in scoring defense (58.1 ppg) and third in opponent field goal percentage (38.1 percent). Butler has held five foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including a season-low 40 to Christian Brothers on Dec. 29.

Going Postal: Butler's success has been largely dictated by the play of a pair of post players, as senior Lade Akande (12.9 points, 6.6 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (12.2, 8.1) have ranked as the top two scorers and rebounders on the team all season long.

Reign Of Threes: While dominant post play has become a trademark of the Bulldogs this season, their ability to score from beyond the arc has been crucial to their success. Butler boasts a 7-2 record when sinking at least five three-pointers in a game and has averaged nearly six treys in its eight victories - compared to just four in its six defeats.

Downtown Living: After struggling to just 19 three-pointers through the first five games of the season (3.8 per contest), the Bulldogs have connected for 53 in their last nine outings (5.9), including a season-high 10 at Evansville on Dec. 3. The added long-range effort helped the Bulldogs average nearly 14 points more in the last nine games than they had in the previous five (70.1 to 56.2).

Bench Dominance: A big reason for the Bulldogs' success this year has been due to the strong play of the bench. Butler has out-scored its opponents in bench scoring in all but one game this year and averages over 14 points more points per game than its foes (26.9 to 12.3). In fact, the Bulldog bench has accounted for over 40 percent of its scoring this year (376 of 912 points), while the team's leading scorer in seven games has been a bench player.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16 turnovers per game, including season-low nine at IPFW on Nov. 18. The Bulldogs' average puts them in second place in the league standings in fewest turnovers per game, while their 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is also second in the conference.

...From Effective Helpers: Three Bulldog players find themselves ranked in the Horizon League's top-10 list in assist-to-turnover ratio heading into Saturday's game. Senior Tara Miller leads the team and ranks fifth in the Horizon League with a 1.5 A/T ratio, while senior Candyce Brown is sixth with a 1.4 ratio. Additionally, sophomore Brittany Bowen finds herself in ninth place with a 1.3 ratio. In fact, Butler is the only school with at least three players in the top-10.

Quite A Start: Through just 14 games this season, Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 171 points, 114 rebounds and 382 minutes played are already more than double her entire season totals from 2007-08 (73 points, 47 rebounds, 148 minutes played) and are quickly approaching her two-year total entering the season (176, 141, 488).

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 40 steals this season are easily the most on the team and are already nearly twice the amount she recorded in her entire first two seasons combined (21).

Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance in the first 14 games not only has her ranked at the top of the team's stats but also have her among the best in the Horizon League. She finds herself listed in the league's top-10 in five categories, including a first-place ranking in defensive rebounds, a second-place mark in blocks and a third-place ranking in steals.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been one of Butler's hottest players in the last six games, averaging 14.8 points per contest while hitting a total of 15 three-pointers. Included in that period was the most impressive single-game performance of her career at Miami (Ohio) on Dec. 13, as she set career-highs with 25 points, eight field goals, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and 39 minutes played. Her 20 threes this year lead the team, while her 1.4 triples per contest are seventh in the league.

In Elite Company: Senior center Lade Akande has assembled one of the finest careers in school history during her three-plus years on the team. In fact, this year she accomplished something that only three other Butler players have ever done. Her five rebounds against William & Mary pushed her career rebounding total to 603, making her just the fourth player in Bulldogs history to record over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in their career. She currently touts 1,540 points, 666 rebounds and 122 blocks in her career.

1,000 On The Radar: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 772 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at 10th with 91.

Grand Theft: The Bulldogs' 25 steals against Christian Brothers ranks as a single-game high in the Horizon League this season and is just four behind the league record of 29, set by Notre Dame during the 1990-91 season. The output helped to boost Butler from a league fourth-place average of 9.8 steals per contest to a league-best 11.2 in just one game. Butler currently ranks second in the conference with 10.8 per game.

Bulldogs Ink Four For 2009-10: High school seniors Becca Bornhorst (6-1, F, Dublin, Ohio), Claire Freeman (5-9, G, Fishers, Ind.), Dragana Grbic (6-3, C, Terre Haute, Ind.) and Liz Jennings (6-1, F, Anderson, Ind.) each signed National Letters of Intent on the first day of the Early Signing Period. The quartet will attend Butler and play basketball beginning next fall.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Twenty-three of the Bulldogs' games this season will feature free live streaming video online. The Horizon League Network will feature 21 of those contests, including all of Butler's home games and every league road game. Additionally, the Bulldogs' games at Ohio State and Indiana were both streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com.

National Attention: The Bulldogs will get national attention in February, as their game against Wright State on Feb. 6 will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 9 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It will be the fourth time in four seasons Butler will appear on the ESPN network.

Next Up: Butler returns to Indianapolis on Thursday (Jan. 15) when it continues Horizon League play against Loyola beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse.