Butler (12-7, 7-1 Horizon) at Milwaukee (8-11, 3-5 Horizon)
Saturday, Jan. 31 - 3:00 p.m. ET
Klotsche Center - Milwaukee, Wis.
The Opening Tip: Butler tries to return to its winning ways on Saturday (Jan. 31) when it wraps up a two-game swing through Wisconsin at Milwaukee beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. CT) in the Klotsche Center. At 7-1 in Horizon League play, the Bulldogs are off to one of the best starts to the conference schedule in school history by allowing league opponents just over 47 points per game while out-scoring their foes by an average of 16 points per contest.
How's That For Starters: Butler's 7-1 league record is tied for the second-best start through eight games in team history, trailing only the 1992-93 team (8-0).
Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Milwaukee 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 seven of their first eight Horizon League contests by holding all but one 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 trio of post players has been the driving force behind the team during the year, as senior Lade Akande (11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (11.3, 8.3) and Susan Lester (8.9, 5.2) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (8.8 points, 23 three-pointers) has been the most effective perimeter scorer, while senior Candace Jones (4.9, 18) has added to the threat off the bench. 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 nine games.
A Look At The Panthers: Milwaukee enters Saturday's contest with an 8-11 overall record and a 3-5 mark in conference play after falling in an 83-65 contest to Valparaiso on Thursday (Jan. 29). The Panthers have averaged 62.4 points per game thanks to efficient shooting with a .408 field goal percentage and a .361 three-point percentage. Senior center Traci Edwards, the Horizon League's Preseason Player of the Year, leads the team and the league in scoring (18.4 points), rebounding (8.5 rebounds) and field goal percentage (.564) and is the school's all-time leading scorer. Sophomore forward Lindsay Laur is second on the squad with 8.2 points per game thanks to a team-best 1.4 three-pointers per contest, while sophomore guard Jineen Williams leads the way with 3.0 assists per game. Head coach Sandy Botham (205-160) is in her 13th season with the Panthers.
The Series Against Milwaukee: Butler and Milwaukee will square off for the 31st time in women's basketball on Saturday, with the Panthers holding a 16-14 edge in the all-time series that dates back to the 1981-82 campaign. UWM also boasts a 9-7 advantage in games played in Milwaukee. Butler claimed wins in the first six match-ups and nine of the first 12 contests of the series before Milwaukee reeled off eight-straight decisions from 2000 to 2004. The two squads have split the last six contests, including a 75-73 Butler win in the last meeting.
The Last Time Against Milwaukee: Butler spotted itself to a 22-point halftime advantage with a 44-point opening frame - and it would need every last bit of it, as host Milwaukee scored 51 in the second period to close the gap to one before the Bulldogs held on for a 75-73 victory at the Klotsche Center on Feb. 14, 2009. Susan Lester tallied her seventh double-double of the season with 23 points and 12 rebounds and Lade Akande added 22 points and eight boards.
Second-Half Rally Falls Short: Butler rallied from a 10-point second-half deficit to take five-point lead with less than seven minutes to go in a battle for first place in the Horizon League standings against host Green Bay, but the Phoenix used a 6-0 surge down the stretch to hold on for a tightly-contested, 58-53, decision at the Kress Events Center on Thursday (Jan. 29) evening. Brittany Bowen led the Bulldogs with 15 points, Susan Lester (14) and Terra Burns (12) finished in double-figures as Butler dropped its first league contest of the season to Green Bay in a match-up of unbeatens in the conference.
Defensive Longevity: Green Bay's 58 points scored on Thursday broke the Bulldogs' streak of consecutive games holding an opponent to 50 or fewer points. Butler had held its previous eight foes to 50 or fewer, the longest such streak in school history. Opponents averaged just 45.3 points during the run. The 1978-79 team held the previous mark of seven-straight of allowing 50 or fewer.
...But The Defense Continues: Despite not holding Green Bay to 50 or fewer points, the Bulldogs did manage to keep the Phoenix under 60 points - something Butler has done to 13 of its 19 opponents. In fact, the Bulldogs have now held their last nine opponents to less than 60 points, on shy of matching the school record of 10-straight games, set by the 1979-80 team.
Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 11-2 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.
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.
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).
Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 262 point margin (503 to 241) for an average of 13.8 more points per game (26.5 to 12.7). In fact, the team's leading scorer in nine of 19 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for nearly 42 percent of the team's total offense (503 of 1,210).
Speaking Of Bench Scoring: Susan Lester's 31 points off the bench against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 is tied for the second-highest bench player total in Division I this season. Jessica Breland of North Carolina also scored 31 points off the bench at Oklahoma on Nov. 23.
Milestone Check: With the Bulldogs' win over Valparaiso on Jan. 23, 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 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. The ensuing defeat at Green Bay on Thursday, however, made the accomplishment a brief one, dropping her back to a .497 winning percentage (97-98). 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.
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 on Jan. 23 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 25.8 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 seven.
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 29th in the NCAA in scoring defense (55.3 ppg) as well as tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.8 percent). Butler has held nine foes to 50 or fewer points during the year, including in eight of the last nine games.
Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16.2 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 +3.5 turnover margin is second in the league and 42nd in the nation.
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 7-1 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 43-22 record (.662) 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).
Going Postal: Butler's recent success has been largely dictated by the play of a trio of post players, as senior Lade Akande (11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (11.3, 8.3) and Susan Lester (8.9, 5.2) currently ranked as the top three scorers and rebounders on the team.
You're Number Two: With 1,577 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, the Robinson, Ill., native 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. First place appears to be quite out of reach, however, as Julie VonDielingen's record of 2,018 points would require Akande to average well over 40 points in the final 10 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: After pulling in four rebounds against Green Bay on Jan. 29, Lade Akande jumped past both Martha Kondalski (684) and Courtney Urquhart (685) into fifth place on the Bulldogs' all-time rebounding chart with 687 in her career. Akande also finds herself ranked in the top-10 in four other categories, including blocks (130 - 4th) and field goals made (648 - 2nd).
Quite A Start: Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 214 points, 157 rebounds and 51 steals through 19 games this year have already surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 8.3 rebounds per game are tops on the team, while her 11.3 points are second-most.
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 five categories, including a first-place ranking in defensive boards, a second-place mark in blocks per game, a third-place ranking in total boards and a fourth-place mark in steals.
Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.7 steals per game rank among the best in the country this year, as her average puts her 35th in all of the NCAA Division I.
Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been one of Butler's top offensive players in the last 11 games, averaging 11.7 points per contest while hitting a total of 18 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 23 threes this year lead the team, while her 1.3 three-pointers made are tied for the ninth-most in the league.
Dominating The Boards: Butler has been the top rebounding team during the Horizon League season, pacing the conference with 38.0 rebounds per game and a +9.4 rebounding margin.
...And The Rest Of The League: As if the 7-1 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs also rank second in conference-only stats in points scored (63.5), points allowed (47.5), scoring margin (+16.0), field goal defense (.360), three-point defense (.281) and blocks (3.8). , Butler also finds itself ranked among the best statistically in conference games.
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 1,577 points, 687 rebounds and 130 blocks in her career.
1,000 On The Radar: With 838 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 98.
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.
Next Up: The Bulldogs will get national
attention next weekend, 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.