January 15, 2008

Butler Hosts League-Leading Green Bay On Thursday

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GAME 15
Green Bay (12-3, 4-0 HL) at Butler (12-2, 2-1 HL)
Thursday, Jan. 17 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs (12-2, 2-1 Horizon League) open a brief two-game homestand on Thursday (Jan. 17) when they host Horizon League leading Green Bay (12-3, 4-0 HL) beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler will take an 11-game home winning streak into the contest, the 10th-longest active trek in the country, and will try to halt an eight-game winning stretch by the Phoenix.

In Good Company: Both the Butler women's and men's basketball teams have gotten off to great starts this season, with the No. 12 Bulldog men's squad boasting a 16-1 record heading into their Thursday game at Cleveland State. In fact, the two team's combined record of 28-3 is the fourth-best record among Division I basketball programs in the nation.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Phoenix can be viewed online via the Horizon League Network. The streaming video is available for free and can be accessed at www.ButlerSports.com by clicking on the "Watch" link on the schedule at the bottom of the front page. Live stats of the game will also be available on Gametracker by clicking the link on the schedule.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler tries to continue its 11-game home winning streak when it hosts Green Bay on Thursday (Jan. 17). The Bulldogs have been one of the best defensive teams in the league this year, holding opponents to a league low 58.9 points per game while ranking second in the conference with 67.4 ppg. Butler has also been the best at taking care of the basketball, touting a league-best 0.97 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who became the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 points on Dec. 6, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the team this season, leading the squad with 16.1 points per game and ranking second with 6.2 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 14.1 points and a team-best 7.6 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-leading 23 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has chipped in 5.9 points and 3.1 boards per game in her rookie season. Junior forward Tara Miller leads the nation with a 3.54 assists-to-turnovers ratio and has added 5.0 points and 3.3 assists per game. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman have played in all but one contest this season and bring leadership and a strong post presence to the floor. Junior guard Candyce Brown adds strong defensive prowess and a long-range shooting touch on the perimeter, while sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint. Rookie posts Chloe Hamilton and Amie Kabara, as well as freshmen guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth. Head coach Beth Couture (77-83) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Phoenix: Green Bay takes a 12-3 overall mark and a perfect 4-0 Horizon League slate into the game on Thursday after topping both Cleveland State (87-61) and Youngstown State (85-80) over the weekend. The Phoenix has been the top offensive team in the Horizon League this season, leading the conference with a 73.5 point scoring average, a 12.3 point scoring margin and a .496 field goal percentage. Four Green Bay players average double-figure point totals, led by junior guard Rachel Porath (14.3 ppg) and senior guard Kayla Groh (14.1). Porath also paces the team in rebounding at 5.8 per contest. Head coach Matt Bollant (12-3) is in his first season at the helm.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler and Green Bay will be meeting for the 36th time in women's basketball, with the Phoenix holding a 28-7 advantage in the all-time series. The Bulldogs claimed a 61-56 win in the first meeting during the 1981-82 season and six of the next 12 match-ups until the 1998-99 campaign, but Green Bay has taken control of the series since then by winning 22 in a row, including a 91-64 decision over the Bulldogs in the Horizon League Championship game last year.

We're Going Streaking!: For better or worse, one streak will be coming to an end on Thursday when the Bulldogs hook up with the Phoenix. Butler carries an 11-game home winning streak into the contest, tied for the 10th-longest active trek in Division I. Meanwhile, Green Bay has claimed victory in the last 22 meetings with the Bulldogs dating back to the 1998-99 season.

Long-Range Barrage Sinks UIC: Four scorers finished in double-figures and the Bulldogs rediscovered their long-range shooting touch with nine three-pointers, as Butler picked up a convincing 72-57 victory over host UIC on Jan. 12 at the UIC Pavilion. Butler shot 45.8 percent from the field (27-of-59) and 50 percent from long range (9-of-18) while holding UIC to just 31.3 percent (20-of-64). The Bulldogs also tied their season-high with 22 assists. Lade Akande (17), Candace Jones (16), Candace Bain (11) and Brittany Bowen (10) led the team in scoring.

Passing With Flying Colors: Thanks in part to a season-high eight assists at UIC, Butler forward Tara Miller enters this week as the NCAA Division I leader in assists-to-turnovers ratio, according to the NCAA statistics which were released on Jan. 14. She touts 46 assists on the year to just 13 turnovers for an A/T ratio of 3.54. Miller had been the Horizon League's leader in A/T ratio for much of the season, but she did not qualify for the national rankings because she lacked the minimum of 3.0 assists per game required by the NCAA. Her eight assist performance against the Flames, however, lifted her assists per game average from 2.9 to 3.3.

Can-Do Candaces: The Bulldogs received a huge boost at UIC from a couple of Candaces - senior forward Candace Bain and junior guard Candace Jones, to be exact. Bain posted a season-high 11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including four-straight field goals to help key a first-half Butler run. Jones, meanwhile, went 5-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from beyond the arc to finish with a season-best 16 points.

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of it's best basketball in the second period this year. In 14 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged nearly five points more in the second period than the first (36.1 to 31.3). Butler has also averaged only 6.4 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.1 in the first half (-2.7 difference), which is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.97 assists-to-turnovers ratio.

The First 20: The Bulldogs may be a second-half team, but the first period seems to have had a lot of impact on how the team fares in a game. Butler is 11-0 this year when heading into the locker room either leading or tied at the break. That bodes well for the Bulldogs since they have out-scored their foes 31.3 to 28.1 in the opening stanza this season.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. The Robinson, Ill., native currently stands in 15th place with 1,103 points after passing Angela Cotton (1,080). Nikki Anderson is 25 points away in 14th place after scoring 1,128 points from 1988-91. Akande became just the 19th player in school history to record 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

Offensive Boost: It seems the Bulldogs have found their shooting stroke in the last few games. After averaging just 58.6 points through the first five contests of the year, the Bulldogs have turned up the offense in the last nine by averaging 72.3 points per game, an increase of nearly 14 points per contest. Meanwhile, Butler has allowed its opponents only 3.3 more points per game on average (56.8 to 60.1).

Taking A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. The Bulldogs have been among the best in the Horizon League this season when it comes to keeping opponents off the board, leading the league with only 58.9 points allowed per game and ranking third with a .387 opponent field goal percentage. In fact, only five of the Bulldogs' 14 foes have scored over 60 points while four have tallied 50 or fewer.

Centers Of Attention: The Bulldogs have had a history of being among the best teams in the nation in three-point shooting ever since head coach Beth Couture arrived in Indianapolis, including a 2006-07 campaign that saw Butler rank second in the NCAA Division I with 8.4 treys per game. This season, however, the Bulldogs have seen a lot more action from inside the three-point arc, as junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have been the team's offensive leaders. Akande currently paces the squad and is third in the league with 16.1 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and seventh in the conference with 14.5 points to her credit.

...But Don't Think The Three Is Out: Just because the Bulldogs feature two of the best post players in the Horizon League doesn't mean they have eliminated their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is fourth in the league with 6.1 three pointers made per game and fourth with 253 attempts. Ironically enough, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 23.

...And How About That Three-Point Defense: Adding to the effect of Butler's three-point attack this year has been its ability to keep their opponents from converting long range shots. The Bulldogs lead the league by holding their foes to a .297 three-point shooting percentage (63-of-212) and are tops in the conference by allowing just 4.5 treys per game. In fact, four opponents have been held to two or fewer three-pointers in a game (Ohio and Bradley with one, Ball State and Loyola with two), while only three have scored more than five.

The Value Of The Three: The Bulldogs have good reason for shooting the three this season. Butler is 11-1 this year when out-shooting its opponent from beyond the arc.

Keeping Them Off The Boards: The Bulldogs have turned up their defense on the glass in Horizon League play. After allowing 39.2 boards per game during the non-conference season, Butler has held its first three league foes to just 31.0 boards per contest, a difference of over eight per game. The Bulldogs' +6.0 rebounding margin in conference games leads the league.

Defending The Glass: No player in the Horizon League has been better on the defensive glass this year than Susan Lester. The sophomore forward leads the conference with 5.8 defensive rebounds per game, including a whopping 7.0 per game in league contests.

Hall Of Fame: Former Butler women's basketball player Liz Skinner Spencer was named as a 2008 inductee to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame on Jan. 7. Skinner Spencer, who played with the Bulldogs from 1979-82, reigns as the school's all-time steals leader with 419. She also holds three of the top four single-season pick totals and set the single-game thefts record of 11 on two occasions. She was inducted into the Butler Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998.

Butler Inks Two For 2008-09: Indiana high school standouts Devin Brierly and Kaley May each signed National Letters of Intent to attend Butler and play basketball for the Bulldogs beginning in the 2008-09 school year. Brierly, a 5-10 senior guard from Southwestern High School in Hanover, Ind., is a three-time all-conference and all-section team member and a two-time all-region team honoree. May, a 5-11 guard/forward from Avon (Ind.) High School, was twice named to the Hoosier Basketball Magazine All-State Team and was tabbed to the Indiana Junior All-Star Team.

Sticking Around: Head coach Beth Couture signed a five-year contract extension in September to remain at the helm through the 2011-12 season. Couture has brought Butler full circle since taking the helm in 2002, going from a three-win season the year before her arrival to the program's first appearance in the Horizon League Championship game last season.

Next Up: Milwaukee invades Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Jan. 19) as the Bulldogs host the Panthers beginning at 2:00 p.m. The contest will also be a part of the Fourth Annual Horizon League Martin Luther King Junior Celebration.