Butler Defense Clashes With Hot-Shooting UIC On Saturday

Butler Defense Clashes With Hot-Shooting UIC On Saturday

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UIC (9-5, 3-1 Horizon) at Butler (10-6, 5-0 Horizon)
Saturday, Jan. 17 - 2:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler tries to continue its torrid start to the Horizon League season on Saturday (Jan. 17), as it takes on UIC beginning at 2:00 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse. A stifling defense has guided the Bulldogs during their current six-game winning streak and 5-0 record in conference play, as Butler has held its league foes to an average of just 46 points per game.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against UIC will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. Mark Minner and Kelly Antcliff will have the call for the game, which 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.

How's That For Starters: Butler's 5-0 conference record is tied with the 1995-96 team for the second-best start to the league season in program history.

A Look At The Bulldogs: After battling through a challenging non-conference schedule that featured six teams which advanced to post-season play in 2007-08, the Bulldogs have claimed convincing wins in their first five Horizon League contests, holding Cleveland State (46 points), Youngstown State (50), Detroit (48), Wright State (41) and Loyola (45) to 50 or fewer points. A duo of post players has been the driving force behind the team this season, as senior Lade Akande (12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (11.9, 8.2) 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 nine of the Bulldogs' 10 wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points and while seven have come after scoring five or more three-pointers. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (8.8 points, 22 three-pointers), junior Susan Lester (7.4, 12), senior Candace Jones (4.5, 14) and freshman Devin Brierly (4.4, 15) have helped lead the Bulldogs' long-range offense, while sophomore Terra Burns and senior Candyce Brown have provided strong defense on the perimeter as starters in the last six games. Senior Tara Miller and sophomores Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.

A Look At The Flames: UIC enters Saturday's contest with a 9-5 record on the year and a 3-1 mark in Horizon League play after falling for the first time in the conference season to Valparaiso, 66-64, on Thursday. The Flames had won four straight prior to that. UIC ranks second in the league with 65.1 points per game and boasts the league's best assist-to-turnover ratio (0.9, 14.6 assists to 15.6 turnovers). Junior guard Jessie Miller leads the team with 12.9 points and 2.9 assists per contest, while guards Jasmine Bailey (11.7) and Briana Hinkle (10.7) also average double-figure points. Junior center Cassie Johnson paces the team with 5.4 rebounds and touts a league-best 1.6 blocks.

The Series Against UIC: Butler and UIC will be meeting for the 40th time in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding a 22-17 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to the 1984-85 season. After the Flames claimed wins in five of the first six match-ups, Butler reeled off 14 in a row from 1990 to 2000. UIC would go on to win 12 of the ensuing 16 meetings, including a seven-game winning streak from 2005 to 2007, before the Bulldogs snapped the skid with an 88-83 overtime victory in the semifinals of the 2007 Horizon League Championship. Butler has won the last three games since then, including both regular season contests last year.

The Last Time Against UIC: Brittany Bowen tallied a then-career-high 20 points and five assists, Lade Akande added her third double-double of the season and the Bulldogs put together a strong defensive performance in trumping visiting UIC, 56-48, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Feb. 7, 2008. Butler held the Flames to just 30.5 percent shooting from the field in limiting its second straight opponent to 48 points. The Bulldogs also finished with a commanding 36 to 18 scoring edge in the paint.

Butler Rallies To Top Loyola: Melanie Thornton registered her fifth double-double of the season, Brittany Bowen and Susan Lester notched double-figure points and rebounds, respectively, and the Bulldogs overcame a sluggish first-half shooting performance to rally for a convincing 64-45 victory over Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 15) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. After going just 1-for-19 from the field in the first 10 minutes of play, the Bulldogs finished with a 21-for-48 effort (43.8 percent) while holding the Ramblers to just six second-half field goals.

Defensive Longevity: Butler's 45 points allowed to Loyola marked the sixth-consecutive contest it had held an opponent to 50 or fewer points - the second-longest such streak in school history. The 1978-79 team held seven-straight foes to 50 or less, allowing an average of just 40.9 points per game during the streak.

You're Number Two: With 1,557 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 moving into sole possession of second by 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 over 35 points per game in the final 13 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 103 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande stands in seventh-place on the career rebounding list with 676. Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including blocks (123 - 4th) and field goals made (640 - 2nd).

Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over Loyola, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within five victories of her 100th at Butler. Her 95 wins are the third most in school history. Additionally, Couture recorded her 350th collegiate coaching victory in 20 seasons between Presbyterian College (258) and Butler against Youngstown State on Jan. 5.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 9-1 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 9-0 on the year when heading into the locker room with a lead at halftime.

Trend Breaker: The Bulldogs' win over Loyola on Thursday marked the first time this season that Butler came out on top after trailing at the break. Conversely, the Ramblers had been 4-1 on the year when leading at halftime.

The First 20: If leading at halftime is as important as it seems, the Bulldogs' first-half defense has given them reason to be optimistic. Butler has allowed just 26.2 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held five opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including three of the last four.

The Best Offense: ...is a great defense. Butler's defense has been crucial to the team's success this season. The Bulldogs rank third in the Horizon League and 43rd in the nation in scoring defense (56.2 ppg) and second in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (38.0 percent). Butler has held seven foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including in each of the last six games.

Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 220 point margin (415 to 195), which equates to an average of 13.7 more points per game (25.9 to 12.1). In fact, the Bulldogs' leading scorer in eight of 16 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 40 percent of the team's total offense (415 of 1,022).

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).

Going Postal: Butler's success has been largely dictated by the play of a pair of post players, as senior Lade Akande (12.3 points, 6.4 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (11.9, 8.2) have ranked as the top two scorers and rebounders on the team all season long.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16.1 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 4.1 turnover margin is second in the league and 40th in the NCAA.

...From Effective Helpers: A trio of 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 is third in the Horizon League with a 1.5 A/T ratio, while senior Candyce Brown is sixth with a 1.4 ratio. Freshman Devin Brierly, meanwhile, is ninth with a 1.2 A/T ratio. Butler is the only league school with at least three players listed among the top-10.

Quite A Start: Through just 16 games this season, Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 191 points and 44 steals are already more than her career totals entering this season (176, 21), while her 131 rebounds and 431 minutes played are quickly approaching her figures from her first 55 games as a freshman and sophomore (141, 488).

Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance this year 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 six categories, including a first-place ranking in defensive rebounds, a second-place mark in blocks and third-place rankings in total boards and steals.

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.8 steals per game rank among the best in the NCAA this year, as her average puts her in 38th place in Division I.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been one of Butler's top offensive players in the last eight games, averaging 12.6 points per contest while hitting a total of 17 three-pointers. Included in that stretch 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 22 threes this year lead the team, while her .393 three-point percentage is fifth 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 1,557 points, 676 rebounds and 123 blocks in her career.

1,000 On The Radar: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 787 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 92.

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.

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 in a second-place tie with 10.8 per game.

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: The Bulldogs wrap up their three-game home stand on Friday, Jan. 23, with their lone game of the week, as Butler battles in-state foe Valparaiso beginning at 7:00 p.m.