January 29, 2008

Bulldogs Open Four-Game Homestand Against Cleveland State

Complete Release in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

GAME 19
Cleveland State (11-7, 5-2 HL) at Butler (13-5, 3-4 HL)
Thursday, Jan. 31 - 7:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs open up a four-game homestand on Thursday (Jan. 31) when they take on Cleveland State at Hinkle Fieldhouse beginning at 7:00 p.m. Butler, which enters the game with a 13-5 overall record and a 3-4 Horizon League mark, will try for its eighth-straight win over the Vikings, who head into the contest at 11-7 overall and 5-2 in league play.

A Good Start: Butler's 13-5 overall mark is the program's best record through 18 games since the 1997-98 season (14-4). The Bulldogs are also way ahead of their pace from last year, as Butler is only three wins shy of its 16-win total from 2006-07.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Vikings 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.

Thanks For Your Support: Prior to the Bulldogs' game against Cleveland State on Thursday, the Butler women's basketball team will honor Hall of Fame player Mary (Majewski) Shaw for her recent financial donation to the basketball program. Her contributions have had an immediate impact on the team this season, assisting in the refurnishing of the women's basketball locker room and the upgrading of the team's video equipment.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler plays for its fourth league victory when it hosts the Vikings on Thursday (Jan. 31). The Bulldogs have been one of the best defensive teams in the conference this year, holding opponents to a league low 60.8 points per game while ranking in a third-place tied with 66.1 points on offense. Butler has also been the best at taking care of the basketball, touting a league-best 0.93 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who ranks 12th on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring chart with 1,155 points, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the team this season, leading the squad with 15.4 points per game and ranking second with 6.0 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.9 points and a team-best 7.3 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-best 31 three-pointers. Junior forward Tara Miller leads all of Division I with a 3.47 assists-to-turnovers ratio and has added 4.4 points and 3.3 assists per game. After coming off the bench in her first 15 games, freshman guard Azjah Bass has started in the last three and ranks fifth on the squad with 5.1 points per game. Junior guard Candyce Brown, who has started in the past two contests, is the team's top perimeter defender and boasts 4.1 points and 2.0 assists per game. Junior guard Candace Jones has missed the past two games due to injury but continues to lead the team with 3.4 assists per game. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman have played in all but one contest this season and add a strong post presence off the bench, while sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint. Freshman guard Brittany Bowen moved to a reserve role after starting the first 15 games, while freshman forward Chloe Hamilton earned her first collegiate start against Milwaukee on Jan. 19. Head coach Beth Couture (78-86) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Vikings: Cleveland State (11-7, 5-2 HL) carries a three-game winning streak into Thursday's match-up after claiming a 77-64 victory over Youngstown State on Jan. 26. The Vikings have been one of the top teams in the league on the defensive end, holding opponents to a league-low .383 field goal percentage and boasting a league-high 10.6 steals per game. CSU is led on offense by sophomore guard Kailey Klein, who ranks second in the league with 17.9 points per game. Junior guard Dominique Butler owns a team-best 6.3 rebounds per game, while senior guard Brittany Korth touts a team-high 3.9 assists. Head coach Kate Peterson Abiad (39-94) is in her fifth season at CSU.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Thursday's game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will be the 27th meeting between Butler and CSU in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding an 18-8 advantage in the series that began during the 1994-95 season. The Bulldogs notched wins in the first eight matches and nine of the first 10 before the Vikings claimed victories in seven of the following eight games. Butler, however, has won the past eight contests dating back to the 2003-04 season.

The Last Time Against Cleveland State: Four Butler players finished with double-figure scoring totals, led by Susan Lester's seventh double-double of the year, and the Bulldogs held off a furious Cleveland State offense in claiming an 83-79 victory over the Vikings on March 3, 2007 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler seemed to have the game well in hand early on with a 24-7 opening run, but CSU came roaring back to take the lead at the break. The Bulldogs, however, got the shots they needed to fall in the final minute of play to come from behind late for the win.

Wright State Out-Shoots Bulldogs: Freshman Azjah Bass netted a career-high 18 points and the Bulldogs rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to take a four-point lead late, but Wright State hit the critical shots it needed down the stretch to hold on for a 70-65 decision over Butler on Saturday (Jan. 26) at the Nutter Center. The Bulldogs erupted on the offensive end in the second period, shooting 56 percent from the field, but were unable to get the stops they needed in the final minutes. Susan Lester added 15 points and seven rebounds, while Lade Akande chipped in 12 points.

Mixing It Up: After starting the same five players through the Bulldogs' first 15 games of the year, Butler head coach Beth Couture has mixed up the line-up in the last three games, with three different lineups taking the floor each time. Freshmen Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton each earned their first career starts during that span, while junior Candyce Brown and seniors Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman each got their first starting nods of the season.

Bass-king In Her Success: After coming off the bench in each of the Bulldogs' first 15 games this year, freshman Azjah Bass earned the starting nod in the past three games and has made the move look brilliant so far. In her three starts, Bass has averaged 10.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and a team-best 3.3 assists and has tallied a career-best 18 points at Wright State.

Passing With Flying Colors: Thanks largely to some outstanding passing efforts in the last five games, Butler forward Tara Miller continues to sit at the top of the NCAA Division I standings in assists-to-turnovers ratio. She currently touts 59 assists on the year to just 17 turnovers for an A/T ratio of 3.47. Miller had been the Horizon League's leader in A/T ratio for much of the season, but she initially did not qualify for the national rankings because she lacked the minimum of 3.0 assists per game required by the NCAA. An eight assist performance against UIC on Jan. 12, however, lifted her assists per game average above 3.0 and her A/T ratio to the top of the NCAA charts, where it has remained since Jan. 14.

Making The Most Of Her Minutes: Sophomore forward Melanie Thornton might only play around six minutes per game, but she certainly makes them productive minutes. The Carmel, Ind., native averages 0.52 points per minute played, which may not sound like much but actually equates to 20.7 points per 40 minutes, the second-best efficiency on the team. Her .500 field goal percentage (16-for-32) is also the second-best mark on the squad.

On Second Thought: Head coach Beth Couture must have some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of its best basketball in the second period this year. In 18 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged nearly six points more in the second period than in the first (35.9 to 30.2). The team has been even better in league play, averaging seven points more following the break (35.4 to 28.4). Butler has also averaged only 6.6 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.2 in the first half (-2.6 difference), which is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.93 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.

Stop `Em At 64: The Bulldogs are 11-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.

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 60.8 points allowed per game and ranking fifth with a .412 opponent field goal percentage. In fact, Butler has held four of its opponents to 50 points or fewer this season.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. With her 12 points at Wright State on Saturday, the Robinson, Ill., native moved past Cortney Urquhart (1,154) into 12th place with 1,155 in her career and is just three points from passing Martha Kondalski (1,157) for 11th. Akande became the 19th player in school history with 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

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 15.4 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and seventh in the conference with 13.9 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 6.0 three pointers made per game and third with 337 attempts. Ironically enough, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 31.

...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 are second in the league by holding their foes to a .311 three-point shooting percentage (78-of-251) and are tops in the conference by allowing just 4.3 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.

Cleaning The Glass: Sophomore forward Susan Lester has continued to be one of the best rebounders in the Horizon League this season after finishing third in the league with 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman last season. The Anderson, Ind., native currently finds herself in a tie for second place with 7.3 boards per game, has posted nine or more rebounds on seven occasions and boasts a team-best four double-doubles.

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: Butler welcomes Youngstown State to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Feb. 2) when the Bulldogs take on the Penguins beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.