Battle For First Pits Butler Against Green Bay On Thursday

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GAME 19
Butler (12-6, 7-0 Horizon) at Green Bay (15-3, 7-0 Horizon)
Thursday, Jan. 29 - 8:00 p.m. ET
Kress Events Center - Green Bay, Wis.

The Opening Tip: Sole possession of first place in the Horizon League will be on the line when Butler (12-6, 7-0 Horizon League) invades Green Bay (15-3, 7-0 HL) on Thursday (Jan. 29) beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT). The Bulldogs will try to remain perfect in the conference while trying for just their second-ever win in Green Bay when they take on the reigning league regular season champion Phoenix in the Kress Events Center.

How's That For Starters: Butler's 7-0 conference record is the second-best start to the league season in program history, trailing only the 1992-93 team (9-0).

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Green Bay 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: 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 seven Horizon League contests, holding each team to 50 or fewer points. Strong defense has been the critical element to the team's success this year, as 11 of the Bulldogs' 12 wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points. A duo of post players has been the driving force behind the team this year, as junior Melanie Thornton (11.8 points, 8.4 rebounds) and senior Lade Akande (11.8, 6.1) and pace the team in both points and rebounds. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (8.5 points, 22 three-pointers) has been the most effective perimeter scorer, while junior Susan Lester (8.7, 17) and senior Candace Jones (4.9, 17) have added to the long-range offense. Sophomore Terra Burns leads the way at the point with 2.4 assists per game, while senior Candyce Brown has been one of the top defensive perimeter players as a starter in the last eight games.

A Look At The Phoenix: Winners of its last seven games, Green Bay enters Thursday's contest against the Bulldogs with a league-best 15-3 overall record and a 7-0 mark in league play. The Phoenix currently leads the conference in scoring defense (51.0 points per game), scoring margin (+13.3) and field goal percentage (.449) while holding a league-high +5.7 turnover margin thanks to a conference-best 11.4 steals per game. Senior center Lavesa Glover (10.6 points per game) and sophomore guard Celeste Hoewisch (10.1) lead the team in scoring, while senior guard Kati Harty has averaged a team-high 4.0 assists per game. Senior forward Erin Templin, meanwhile, boasts a team-best 5.4 rebounds per game.

Trying To End The Skid: A win by the Bulldogs on Thursday would end a 24-game losing streak to the Phoenix that dates back to the 1998-99 season. It is the longest such streak to any one opponent in Butler history.

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).

The Series Against Green Bay: Butler and Green Bay will be meeting for the 38th time in women's basketball, with the Phoenix holding a 30-7 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 24 in a row, including a 91-64 decision over the Bulldogs in the Horizon League Championship game in 2007 and a pair of setbacks last season. Butler has only won once in Green Bay - a 67-62 win on Jan. 10, 1998.

The Last Time Against Green Bay: A 51-point first half by Green Bay all but sealed the game despite a spirited second half by the Bulldogs, as Butler dropped an 84-59 decision to the host Phoenix at the Kress Center on Feb. 16, 2008. Green Bay shot 52.5 percent from the field (31-for-59) and held a convincing 43-20 edge on rebounds in the game. Brittany Bowen came on strong in the second half, scoring 14 of her team-high 18 points after the break and finishing 7-of-8 from the field and 3-of-4 from three-point range. Lade Akande added 13 points, while Susan Lester tallied eight points and a team-best six boards.

League-Wide Dominance: It's not just the women's basketball team that has been perfect in the Horizon League this year. The men's team enters this weekend with an 9-0 record in conference play, giving Butler a combined 16-0 mark in the league. That effort ranks as the best combined league record in all of Division I, with Oklahoma (11-0) as the closest competitor.

Defensive Longevity: Butler's 44 points allowed to Valparaiso marked the eighth-consecutive contest it had held an opponent to 50 or fewer points - the longest such streak in school history. The 1978-79 team held the previous mark of seven-straight of allowing 50 or fewer.

Lester's Career Night Trumps Valpo: Susan Lester erupted for a career-high 31 points - including an astounding 27 in the first half alone - as the Bulldogs rolled to a convincing 77-44 victory over Valparaiso on Friday (Jan. 23) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Lester's scoring line in the first half (10-14 FG, 4-6 3FG, 27 points) dwarfed the entire Crusader's lineup (5-19 FG, 1-4 3FG, 19 points), as the Bulldogs rode an incredible 70.4 percent effort from the field (19-27) to its fifth 30+ point victory of the season.

Lester Earns Weekly Honor: After putting up a staggering offensive performance en route to a career-best point total, Susan Lester was named the Horizon League's Player of the Week on Monday (Jan. 26). Lester put together arguably the most impressive offensive display of the Horizon League season, hitting 11-of-19 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc to finish with a career-best 31 points. Despite playing just 24 minutes the entire game, she came off the bench to score a whopping 27 of her points in 14 first-half minutes alone, including 23 of Butler's final 30 and 16 of its last 18 of the half.

Downright Offensive: Susan Lester's 31 points against Valpo finished just six shy of the Butler school record and was the school's highest single-game point total since Sarah Bolten matched the Bulldog record with 37 against Bowling Green on Dec. 4, 2001.

Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 248 point margin (485 to 237) for an average of 13.7 more points per game (26.9 to 13.2). In fact, the team's leading scorer in nine of 18 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for nearly 42 percent of the team's total offense (485 of 1,157).

Speaking Of Bench Scoring: Susan Lester's 31 points off the bench against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 is tied for the highest bench player total in Division I this season. Jessica Breland of North Carolina scored 31 points off the bench at Oklahoma on Nov. 23.

Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over Valparaiso, seventh-year head coach Beth Couture moved to within three victories of her 100th at Butler. Her 97 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.

Breaking Even: Butler's win over Valparaiso on Friday gave Beth Couture a 97-97 record in six-plus seasons with the Bulldogs - her first .500 record with the team since beginning her tenure at 1-1 during the 2002-03 campaign. Couture has matched or increased Butler's win total in every season she has been at the helm, going from six in her first year to 20 last season.

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 11-1 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 10-0 on the year when heading into the locker room with a lead at halftime.

...And Lester Helped With That: Susan Lester's 27 points scored in the first half of the Bulldogs' game against Valparaiso was not only eight more than the entire Crusaders' roster scored combined but was also tied for the highest total in a first half in all of Division I this year. Shantia Grace of South Florida scored 27 points in the first period against Coppin State on Nov. 23.

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 25.7 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held six opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including four of the last six.

The Best Offense: ...is a great defense. Butler's defense has been crucial to the team's success this season. The Bulldogs rank second in the Horizon League and 27th in the NCAA in scoring defense (55.1 ppg) as well as tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.7 percent). Butler has held nine foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including in each of the last eight games.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 15.9 turnovers per game, including season-low nine at IPFW on Nov. 18. The Bulldogs' average puts them in second place in the league standings and 48th in Division I in fewest turnovers per game, while their +4.1 turnover margin is second in the league and 38th in the nation.

Going Postal: Butler's success has been largely dictated by the play of a pair of post players, as senior Lade Akande (11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds) and junior Melanie Thornton (11.8, 8.4) have ranked as the top two scorers and rebounders on the team all season long.

You're Number Two: With 1,572 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 40 points per game in the final 11 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 110 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande stands in seventh-place on the career rebounding list with 683. Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including blocks (127 - 4th) and field goals made (646 - 2nd).

Quite A Start: Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 213 points, 151 rebounds and 49 steals through 18 games this year have already surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 8.4 rebounds per game are tops in the league and her 11.8 points lead the team.

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 total rebounds and defensive boards and a second-place mark in blocks per game.

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.7 steals per game rank among the best in the country this year, as her average puts her 33rd in all of the NCAA Division I.

Odd Yearly Trends: Happy New Year indeed, especially since there's a "9" on the end. In the last five calendar years (including the impressive 7-0 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast an astounding 43-21 record (.672) in odd years. Even years have not been as kind to Butler, however, as the Bulldogs finished both 2006 and 2008 with a combined 28-32 record (.467).

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been one of Butler's top offensive players in the last 10 games, averaging 11.4 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 1.3 three-pointers made and .367 three-point percentage are both 10th 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 1,572 points, 683 rebounds and 127 blocks in her career.

1,000 On The Radar: With 824 points through her first two-plus seasons, junior Susan Lester ranks second in career scoring among Butler's active players. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at eighth with 97.

Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, four of the Bulldogs' 12 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 1982-83 Bulldogs were the last squad to post four or more 30-point wins in a 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.

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 concludes its brief road trip through the Badger State when it takes on Milwaukee on Saturday (Jan. 31) beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. CT) at the Klotsche Center.