Butler (15-8, 10-2 Horizon) at Loyola (6-15, 1-10 Horizon)
Saturday, Feb. 14 - 3:00 p.m. ET
Joseph J. Gentile Center - Chicago, Ill.
The Opening Tip: Fresh off a convincing win over UIC that guarantees it the fourth-straight winning conference season, Butler returns to action on Saturday (Feb. 14) when it takes on host Loyola beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. CT) at the Joseph J. Gentile Center in Chicago, Ill. The Bulldogs (15-8, 10-2 HL) will pit their smothering defense that has allowed opponents a league-low .372 field goal percentage against a Ramblers team that is second in the conference with a .425 shooting percentage.
How's That For Starters: Butler's 10-2 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since the 1997-98 campaign and is tied for the third-best start through 12 games in program history.
Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Loyola 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 10 of their first 12 Horizon League contests by holding all but two teams to 50 or fewer points. Strong defense has been the critical element to the team's success this year, as 14 of the Bulldogs' 15 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 junior Melanie Thornton (11.1 points, 7.9 rebounds), senior Lade Akande (10.8, 6.0) and junior Susan Lester (9.7, 5.7) pace the team in both points and rebounds. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (9.7 points, 36 three-pointers) has been the most effective long-range scorer, while sophomore Terra Burns (2.4 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.7) rank 1-2 in assists per game and provide strong perimeter defense. The Butler bench has been elemental in the team's success during the year, as the Bulldog reserves have out-scored their foes in all but three games and have accounted for nearly 40 percent of the squad's offensive output.
A Look At The Ramblers: Loyola enter's Saturday's contest with a 6-15 overall record and a 1-10 mark in Horizon League play after falling to Valparaiso, 85-60, on Thursday (Feb. 12). The Ramblers boast an efficient offense that ranks second in the conference in both field goal percentage (.425) and three-point percentage (.365) and third in the league in free throw percentage (.708). Junior forward Elyse VanBogaert paces the team with 11.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while junior guard Keisha Collins is tops in assists (3.2 per game) and second in scoring (10.7). Junior guard Maggie McCloskey, meanwhile, averages 10.5 points thanks to a league-high 2.8 three-pointers per game.
The Series Against Loyola: The Bulldogs will take on the Ramblers for the 54th time in school history on Saturday, the most meetings against any one BU opponent in women's basketball. Butler owns a 36-17 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 wins in 18 of the successive 19, including 14-straight from 1992 to 1998. Loyola took victories in five of seven match-ups from 2001 to 2004, but the Bulldogs have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 64-45 win in January.
The Last Time Against 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 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.
Bulldogs Roll Past UIC: Brittany Bowen tied her career-high with five three-pointers, Susan Lester and Melanie Thornton each registered double-doubles and head coach Beth Couture secured her 100th victory with the Bulldogs, as Butler topped UIC, 68-49, on Thursday (Feb. 12) evening at the UIC Pavilion. The Bulldogs used a 24-9 advantage in points off turnovers and a 19-4 margin in second chance points to help power past the Flames. Bowen finished with an 8-for-10 effort from the field and a 5-of-6 mark from beyond the arc to lead all scorers with 22 points. Lester added 20 points and a season-high 13 boards for her second double-double of the year, while Thornton chipped in 12 points and 10 rebounds for her seventh of the season.
Century Mark: The Bulldogs' win over UIC on Thursday gave head coach Beth Couture her 100th victory at Butler. Her 100 wins are the third-most in school history, ranking behind only Linda Mason (124) and June Olkowski (114).
Back In The Black: Not only did Butler's win over UIC give Beth Couture 100 victories in her Bulldog career, but it also gives her a 100-99 record with the team - her first winning mark in six-plus years. Couture has matched or increased the Bulldogs' win total in each of her previous seasons, going from just six in her first year to 20 last year. She boasts a 358-216 (.624) record in over 19 seasons of coaching between both Butler and Presbyterian College.
Guaranteed Success: The Bulldogs' win over the Flames gives them their 10th in Horizon League play and assures them of their fourth-straight winning conference season. The 10 wins also matches last year's total and is four victories shy of matching the 1992-93 team's school record of 14 league wins.
Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 14-2 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.
...But 50 Is Better: Butler is 13-0 on the year and 10-0 in league play when it holds opponents to 50 or fewer points.
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 19th in the NCAA in scoring defense (54.3 ppg) as well as tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (37.2 percent).
Defensive Longevity: The Bulldog defense might be one of the best in the Horizon League, but for an eight-game stretch at the start of league play, they were one of the best in school history. From Dec. 29 to Jan. 23, Butler held eight consecutive opponents to 50 or fewer points, 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.
You're Number Two: With 1,609 points scored in her career, senior center Lade Akande ranks second on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. The Robinson, Ill., native steadily climbed from seventh place at the start of the season to second after passing Elza Purvlicis (1,517) with her first bucket against Youngstown State on Jan. 5. First place appears to be out of reach, however, as Julie VonDielingen holds the school record of 2,018 points. 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: With 712 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 62 more to catch Sarah Schuetz in fourth place (774) and a whole lot more to reach record-holder Elza Purvlicis (1,050). Akande has a legitimate chance at finishing her career ranked in the top-10 in 12 statistical categories, including points, rebounds, blocks, steals and minutes played.
In Rare Company: With her 13 rebounds against Detroit on Feb. 8, senior center Lade Akande surpassed 700 rebounds in her career and became just the second player in school history to boast over 1,500 points, 700 rebounds and 100 blocks in her career. Elza Purvlicis (1981-84) is the other player, boasting 1,517 points, 1,050 boards and 164 blocked shots.
1,000 On The Radar: With 890 career points, junior Susan Lester needs to average 15.7 points per game in the final seven remaining guaranteed contests to become the 20th player in school history with 1,000 career points. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at eighth with 103.
Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 13-1 on the year when leading or tied at halftime.
...And Lester Helped With That: Susan Lester's 27 points scored in the first half of the Bulldogs' win against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 was not only eight more than the entire Crusaders' roster for the half 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 24.7 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held eight opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including six Horizon League foes.
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 10-2 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 46-23 record (.667) 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).
Bench Dominance: The Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 277 point margin (576 to 299) for an average of 12 more points per game (25 to 13). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 11 of 23 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team's total offense (576 of 1,454).
Speaking Of Bench Scoring: Susan Lester's 31 points off the bench against Valparaiso on Jan. 23 was 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.
Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs this year. Butler has averaged just 16.0 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 +3.7 turnover margin is second in the league and 39th in the nation.
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 eight meetings so far, topping Evansville (70-52), Miami (86-81, 2OT) and CSU (55-46).
Going Postal: Butler's recent success has been largely dictated by the play of a trio of post players, as junior Melanie Thornton (11.1 points, 7.9 rebounds), senior Lade Akande (10.8, 6.0) and junior Susan Lester (9.7, 5.7) currently ranked as the top three scorers and rebounders on the team.
Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 255 points, 182 rebounds and 61 steals through 23 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game are tops on 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 is listed in the league's top-10 in five categories, including first place in defensive boards and third place marks in blocks and total rebounds.
Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.7 steals per game rank among the best in the country this year, as her average puts her 36th in all of the NCAA Division I.
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. Lester's 27 first half points were eight more than the entire Valparaiso roster and her 10 first period field goals made were twice that of the Crusaders.
What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 11-2 this season with senior guard Candyce Brown as a starter. A team co-captain this season, Brown's leadership on the floor has been vital to the success of the team, so much so that she has averaged a team-high 29.6 minutes of playing time during conference play.
Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive players in the last 15 games, leading the team with 12.2 points per contest while hitting a total of 31 three-pointers during that stretch. The current run began with 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 36 threes this year lead the team, while her .429 three-point percentage (3rd) 1.6 three-pointers made (8th) rank among the top-10 in the Horizon League.
Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 14-1 on the season when it out-scores its opponents from the free throw line, including a perfect 9-0 mark in league play.
Making Her Point: In just her second season, sophomore guard Terra Burns has stepped up as the Bulldogs' top option at the point in 2008-09. The Peoria, Ill., native has earned a starting spot in 16 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in the last 13 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.5 assists per game and boasts 6.8 points per game in league contests.
Dominating The League Stats: As if the 10-2 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs rank among the top-three in the league in a total of 12 conference-only statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounds and blocks.
Weekly Honors: Lade Akande and Susan Lester have each earned Player of the Week awards from the Horizon League this season. Akande helped the Bulldogs to wins against Evansville (Dec. 3) and Coastal Carolina (Dec. 6) by averaging a team-high 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while posting two double-doubles. Lester, meanwhile, scored a career-high 31 points off the bench in a win against Valparaiso on Jan. 23, hitting 11-of-19 from the field and 5-of-8 from beyond the arc despite playing just 24 minutes the entire game.
So You Want To Be A Coach: Senior guard Tara Miller has been invited to participate in the upcoming seventh annual Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) So You Want To Be A Coach Program to be held in conjunction with the organization's national convention April 3-7 in St. Louis, Mo. She is one of just 54 women's basketball players in the country to be named to the 2009 class. Those selected will take part in a two-and-a-half day workshop during the national convention. Each participant is selected based on their academics, contributions to women's basketball on and off the court, professional resume and a written recommendation from their head coach.
Marginally Impressive: Butler has had quite a knack for registering big wins this season. In fact, 10 of Butler's 15 wins have come by margins of 15 or more points, while four have been by 30 or more, 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.
Sharp-Shooters: Butler's 55.0 field goal percentage (22-for-40) against Wright State on Feb. 6 was the program's best single-game accuracy in nearly 10 years, when the Bulldogs hit 31-of-50 (62.0 percent) from the field against (coincidentally) the Raiders on Feb. 20, 1999. Butler has hit over 50 percent in just two other games this season, coming at home against Youngstown State and Valparaiso.
Grand Theft: The Bulldogs' 25 steals against Christian Brothers rank as the second-highest single-game total 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.
Next Up: Butler will have a week off from
competition before heading to Valparaiso for its only game of the
week on Saturday, Feb. 21 beginning at 2:35 p.m. ET (1:35 p.m. CT).