Bulldogs Host Detroit On Saturday

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GAME 26
Detroit (4-20, 1-12 HL) at Butler (16-9, 6-8 HL)
Saturday, Feb. 23 - 12:00 noon
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler welcomes Horizon League foe Detroit to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Feb. 23) beginning at 12:00 noon. The Bulldogs will try to continue its recent dominance of Titans, having won seven of the last eight meetings and five straight, including a 72-62 triumph at Calihan Hall in January.

Crunching The Numbers: The Bulldogs' 16-9 overall mark is the program's best record through 24 games since the 1998-99 season (16-9). Butler's 16 victories also match last season's win total and are tied for the most under head coach Beth Couture's five-plus years at the helm.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Titans 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 for its 17th win of the season on Thursday when it hosts Detroit. The Bulldogs have been one of the top defensive teams in the conference, ranking second with 61.8 points per game and second with a +3.3 point scoring margin. Butler has also been among the best at taking care of the basketball, leading the league with only 15.2 turnovers per game and ranking second with a 0.93 assists-to-turnovers ratio. Junior center Lade Akande, who ranks ninth on the Bulldogs' all-time scoring chart with 1,283 points, has been the biggest offensive catalyst on the squad this season with a team-best 16.2 points per game while ranking second with 6.4 rebounds. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 13.0 points and a team-high 7.4 boards while adding outside shooting with a team-high 39 three-pointers. Freshman guards Azjah Bass and Brittany Bowen have stepped up their games in conference play, with Bass averaging 6.2 points and Bowen scoring 7.6. Junior guard Candyce Brown has started in the last nine games and is third on the squad with 2.2 assists. Junior forward Tara Miller ranks second in Division-I with a 3.21 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 (7.5) and second in assists (3.1). Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman have been the top post options off the bench, while sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic option in the paint. Freshmen Terra Burns and Chloe Hamilton and sophomore Amie Kabara add depth. Head coach Beth Couture (81-90) is in her sixth season at Butler.

A Look At The Titans: Detroit heads into Saturday's contest with a 4-20 overall record and a 1-12 mark in Horizon League play. The Titans dropped their initial 11 games of the conference season before scoring their first league victory over Cleveland State on Feb. 16. Detroit boasts a physical presence under the basket, ranking fourth in the league with 35.0 rebounds per game and third with 3.3 blocks per contest. Junior guard/forward Sandi Brown paces the team with 10.8 points per game and is tied for the team rebounding lead with senior center India Bruster (5.3 per contest). Interim head coach Lee Piepho is 3-13 with Detroit since replacing Mickey Barrett on Dec. 12, 2007.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Saturday's contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse will mark the 51st meeting between the two squads in women's basketball, with Detroit being Butler's second most frequent opponent behind league-foe Loyola (52 meetings). The series began during the 1984-85 season, but the Bulldogs did not register a win until the seventh meeting in 1987-88. After winning only six of the next 19 meetings, Butler would claim four-straight from 1997 to 1999 before dropping 11 of the next 12 match-ups, including nine in a row from 1999 to 2003. Seven of the last eight contests have gone the way of the Bulldogs, however, including the last five.

The Last Time Against Detroit: Lade Akande scored a season-high 27 points, including 19 in the second half, and the Bulldogs rallied from an 11-point first half deficit to claim a 72-62 victory over host Detroit at Calihan Hall on Jan 24. Butler found itself in a significant hole late in the first period, as the Titans held a 30-19 advantage with 4:38 remaining in the stanza. The Bulldogs, however, cut the gap to three at the break thanks to a 12-4 run before out-scoring Detroit 41-28 in the second period for the win. Akande finished with a career-high 12 field goals (12-for-18) and added nine boards, while Susan Lester chipped in 14 points.

Cold Second Half Dooms Bulldogs: Junior Lade Akande erupted for a game-high 22 points, but the Bulldogs were unable to hold on to a five-point second-half lead, as visiting Wright State used a 17-5 trek late to claim a 65-60 decision at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday (Feb. 21). Akande led all scorers with her team-leading seventh 20-plus point effort of the year on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. The remainder of the Butler squad, however, shot just 11-of-38 (28.9 percent) on the night, including a 0-for-9 stretch late in the second period that helped the Raiders rally for a seven-point advantage with 2:48 to play.

The First 20: How the Bulldogs play in the first period seems to have quite a bit of determination on how the team fares in a game. Butler is 13-1 this year when heading into the locker room with a lead at the break.

But WSU Didn't Get The Memo: Wright State's win over Butler on Thursday marked the first time this season that the Bulldogs fell to an opponent when leading at halftime. Butler held a 33-28 advantage at the break before the Raiders out-scored the Bulldogs 37-27 in the second.

Learning On The Fly: Freshmen guards Brittany Bowen and Azjah Bass have come into their own during league play this season, as the two newcomers rank third and fourth on the team in scoring at 7.6 and 6.2 points per game, respectively. The tandem has had some of their most impressive performances of late. In the last eight games, Bowen is averaging 8.9 points per contest, including four double-figure scoring efforts and a career-best 20 points against UIC on Feb. 7, while Bass has averaged 7.6 points per game with three double-digit games and a career-high 18 points at Wright State on Jan. 26.

Stop `Em At 64: The Bulldogs are 13-0 on the year when holding their opponents to fewer than 65 points in a game.

Tale Of Two Teams: The Bulldogs have played like two different teams at times this season, with one capable of shutting down an opponents' offense and another that struggles on the defensive end. In Butler's 16 victories this season, opponents have managed just 38.0 percent from the field while scoring only 56.9 points per game. In the nine losses, however, Butler's foes have converted 51.7 percent for 70.6 points.

Holding On To The Ball: Butler has been notably more adept at handling the basketball in the past few games, as the Bulldogs have yielded less than 15 turnovers in seven of the last 10 contests, including a season-low nine against Loyola on Feb. 9. Butler currently leads the Horizon League and ranks 30th in the country with 15.2 turnovers per game.

...Taking It From Others: Opponents have not had the same amount of luck as the Bulldogs when it comes to maintaining possession. Butler foes have turned over the ball 18.8 times per game while the Bulldogs rank third in the conference with 9.5 steals per game, including double-figure pick totals in each of the last six contests.

...And Making Them Pay: Butler has used its opponents' miscues to its advantage this year, averaging 16.9 points off turnovers per game, including nine games with 20 or more points. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have only allowed 14.2 points per game resulting from turnovers. In fact, 25.9 percent (423-of-1,627) of Butler's points have come off turnovers.

Tracking The Bracket: If the Horizon League Championship was to begin today, the Bulldogs would enter the tournament as the No. 7 seed and would host an opening round game against No. 10 Detroit on March 10. Butler is currently seventh in the standings at 6-8 and is only a game behind sixth-place Valparaiso.

Moving Up The List: It hasn't taken long for junior Lade Akande to climb the Bulldogs' career scoring chart. With her 13-point performance against Green Bay on Saturday, the Robinson, Ill., sits in ninth place on Butler's all-time scoring chart with 1,283 points in her career. She is now just 37 points away from tying Sarah Schuetz's eighth-place total of 1,320. Akande became the 19th player in school history with 1,000 career points on Dec. 6 against Evansville.

Next In Line?: After scoring three points against Wright State on Thursday, sophomore Susan Lester brought her career scoring total to 611 points, which is second most among Butler's active players.

National Recognition For Passing: Junior forward Tara Miller has continued to find herself among the best in the country when it comes to handling the ball this season. She is currently second in all of the NCAA Division-I with a 3.21 A/T ratio and trails national leader Kristi Cirone of Illinois State (3.40) by .19 points. Miller has been ranked first or second nationally in A/T ratio since Jan. 14, including a 25-day stint from Jan. 14 to Feb. 7 at the top of the NCAA charts. Her 3.2 assists per game lead the team and are the 11th-most in the Horizon League.

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 16.2 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 12th in the conference with 13.0 points to her credit.

Hard To Miss: Lade Akande has not only been one of the most effective scorers in the Horizon League this year, she has also been one of the most efficient shooters in the nation. Akande is 27th in the Division-I rankings with a .554 field goal percentage (173-for-312).

Out Of Range: Just because the Bulldogs have focused their offense away from the perimeter doesn't mean they are going to allow their opponents to take advantage of long range scoring. Butler is second in the conference by allowing just 4.8 treys per game and have held eight opponents to three or fewer three-pointers in a game.

Youth Movement: Butler's success this season has been greatly impacted by the quick maturation of its newcomers. This year's rookie class has been thrust into action, with at least one freshman player earning a start in all 25 games and two (Bass and Bowen) starting in each of the past six contests. In fact, the four active freshmen players have been responsible for 24 percent (212-of-885) of the team's scoring in Horizon League play this year.

Block Party: Junior Lade Akande currently leads the Horizon League with 1.5 blocks per game. The Butler center has posted two or more blocks in 12 games this year and a team-high four against Monmouth on Nov. 23.

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 is currently second in the league with 7.4 boards per game, has posted nine or more rebounds on 10 occasions and boasts a team-best seven double-doubles.

Uncommon Non-Conference: The Bulldogs' 10-1 record against non-Horizon League opponents this season was the best mark since the 1990-91 squad finished with a 10-1 slate.

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 its final road trip of the regular season when it heads to Youngstown State on Feb. 28 for a 7:00 p.m. game.