Loyola (4-17, 2-8 HL) at Butler (15-6, 5-5 HL)
Saturday, Feb. 9 - 2:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.
The Opening Tip: Butler goes for its third consecutive league win on Saturday (Feb. 9) when it closes a four-game home stand against Loyola beginning at 2:00 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs, who enter the contest with a 15-6 overall record and a 5-5 mark in league play, try for their second victory over Loyola this season after topping the Ramblers, 61-50, in Chicago on Jan. 10.
A Look At The Numbers: The Bulldogs' 15-6 overall mark is the program's best record through 21 games since the 1997-98 season (17-4). Butler is also only two wins away from topping its 16-win total from last season and notching the most victories (17) since the 1998-99 campaign.
Think Pink: The Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) has encouraged all coaching staffs and game day support staffs to help unify the women's basketball world in a show of support for all coaches who are battling breast cancer throughout the weekend of February 8-10. All coaches have been asked to wear pink on the bench and to promote the weekend with their players and fans in order to educate, create awareness and motivate everyone to learn about breast cancer prevention.
Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Ramblers 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 ascent up the Horizon League standings when it hosts Loyola on Saturday. The Bulldogs have returned to their stifling defensive ways in the past two contests, holding both Youngstown State and UIC to just 48 points each. Butler has been one of the top defensive teams in the conference by allowing a league-low 59.8 points per game while ranking third with a .404 opponent field goal percentage. It has also been among the best at taking care of the basketball, ranking second in the league with a 0.91 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who ranks 11th on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring chart with 1,210 points, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the team this season, leading the squad with 15.8 points per game and ranking second with 6.6 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.5 points and a team-best 7.6 boards while adding outside shooting with a team-high 35 three-pointers. Freshman guard Brittany Bowen has been one of the hottest offensive players of late, averaging 14.0 points in the last three contests, while freshman guard Azjah Bass has averaged 9.3 points in her last four games. Junior guard Candyce Brown has started in the last five games and is third on the squad with 2.0 assists. Junior forward Tara Miller is among the best in the country with a 3.24 assists-to-turnovers ratio and paces the team with 3.2 assists per game, while junior guard Candace Jones ranks third on the team in scoring (8.0) and second in assists (3.1). 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. Sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint, while freshman forward Chloe Hamilton and sophomore center Amie Kabara add depth. Head coach Beth Couture (80-87) is in her sixth season at Butler.
A Look At The Ramblers: Loyola faces the Bulldogs for the second time this season after falling at Valparaiso, 69-62, on Thursday (Feb. 7). The Ramblers have been one of the most accurate shooting teams in the league, ranking fourth with a .422 field goal percentage and second with a .374 three-point percentage. Sophomore guard Maggie McCloskey and sophomore forward Elyse VanBogaert are tied for the team lead with 11.9 points per game each, while sophomore guard Keisha Collins has added 11.0 points. Freshman post Brittany Boeke paces the squad with 6.0 boards per contest. Head coach Shannon Reidy (15-63) is in her third season at Loyola.
The Match-Up At A Glance: The Bulldogs have faced the Ramblers more times in their history than any other opponent, as the two teams will meet for the 52nd time on Saturday. Butler owns a 35-16 all-time record against Loyola in a series that dates back to a 68-58 Bulldog victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse during the 1982-83 season. After the Ramblers claimed 10 of the next 16 contests, Butler reeled off 18 of the next 19, including 14-straight from 1992 to 1998. Loyola took wins in five of seven match-ups from 2001 to 2004, but the Bulldogs have been the victor in the past eight contests, including a 61-50 win in Chicago on Jan. 10.
The Last Time Against Loyola: Susan Lester notched her fourth double-double of the season, Lade Akande finished just one rebound shy of her second and the Bulldogs scrapped their way to a hard-fought 61-50 victory at Loyola on Thursday (Jan. 10) at the Joseph J. Gentile Center. Butler had to hold off several Rambler charges, including a 14-5 second-half run that helped erase a 10-point lead, before the Bulldogs smothered the Loyola offense during the final eight minutes. Lester finished with a game-high 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Akande chipped in 15 points and nine boards.
Bowen, Defense Leads Butler Past UIC: Freshman Brittany Bowen tallied a career-high 20 points and five assists, junior Lade Akande added her third double-double of the season and the Bulldogs put on another strong defensive performance in trumping visiting UIC, 56-48, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday (Feb. 7) evening. 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.
The Defense Strikes Back: The Butler defense has gotten back on track in the last two games. The Bulldogs held Youngstown to just 48 points in a 63-48 win on Feb. 2 and repeated the feat on Thursday with a 56-48 victory over UIC. The Bulldogs have held opponents to 50 points or fewer on six occasions this season and currently lead the Horizon League by allowing only 59.8 points per game on average.
Bowen Steps Up: Freshman Brittany Bowen has put together some impressive performances in the last three games. After totaling 12 points against Cleveland State and 10 against Youngstown State, the Columbus, Ind., native tallied a career-best 20 points and five assists while adding seven boards against UIC.
Stop `Em At 64: The Bulldogs are 13-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.
Number Two Isn't Too Bad: After holding down the top spot in the NCAA for nearly four weeks, junior forward Tara Miller saw her reign as the Division I leader in assists-to-turnovers ratio come to an end on Friday (Feb. 8). Her one assist and two turnovers against UIC dropped her A/T ratio to 3.24, just two-hundredths below new leader Kristi Cirone of Illinois State (3.26). Miller had been tops in the country for the past 25 days, beginning, ironically enough, after an eight assist, three turnover performance at UIC on Jan. 12. She continues to lead the Horizon League in the category and is 10th in the conference with 3.2 assists per game.
Mixing It Up: After 15-straight games with the same five starters each night, the Butler starting lineup saw quite a bit of shaking up over the following five contests. During that span, head coach Beth Couture used in nine different players, including freshmen Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton, who each saw their first collegiate starts. The Bulldogs went with the same lineup in back-to-back games for the first time since Jan. 17 when they battled UIC on Thursday.
Good Riddance, January: It's safe to say that the Bulldogs have had better months than this past January. After posting a 4-1 record in November and a perfect 6-0 slate in December, Butler finished the month of January with a 3-5 mark. However, if recent history is any indication, things could be turning for the better in February. Butler is 21-11 during the month in the past four years, including the last two wins against Youngstown State and UIC.
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 21 games this season, the Bulldogs have averaged 5.6 points more in the second period than in the first (35.4 to 29.8). The difference has been even more significant in league play, with Butler scoring 6.3 more points after the break (34.5 to 28.2). Butler has also averaged only 6.6 turnovers in the second period compared with 9.0 in the first half (-2.4 difference).
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 13-1 this year when heading into the locker room either leading or tied at the break.
Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. With her 16-point performance against UIC on Thursday, the Robinson, Ill., native touts 1,210 points in her career, the 11th-most all-time, and needs just five more to pass Debbie Benziger's 10th-place total of 1,214. 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 15.8 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and eighth in the conference with 13.5 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 fifth in the league with 5.6 three pointers made per game and third with 381 attempts. Ironically enough, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled 35.
...And How About That Perimeter 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 third in the league by holding their foes to a .313 three-point shooting percentage (89-of-284) and are tops in the conference by allowing just 4.2 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 year 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 third with 7.6 boards per game, has posted nine or more rebounds on nine occasions and boasts a team-best six double-doubles.
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 0.51 points per minute played, which may not sound like much but actually equates to 20.5 points per 40 minutes, the second-best efficiency on the team. Her .485 field goal percentage (16-for-33) is also the second-best mark on the squad.
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 opens a two-game road trip on
Thursday, Feb. 14, when it heads to Milwaukee for an 8:00 p.m. ET
contest with the Panthers at the Klotsche Center.