February 27, 2009

Butler Hosts League-Leading Green Bay On Senior Day Saturday

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GAME 27
Green Bay (24-3, 16-0 Horizon) at Butler (17-9, 12-3 Horizon)
Saturday, Feb. 28 - 4:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler wraps up the home portion of the regular season when it welcomes league-leading Green Bay to town on Saturday (Feb. 28) beginning at 4:00 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse. At 12-3 in conference play, the Bulldogs find themselves ranked second in the league standings and will try to finish the league slate undefeated at home against a Phoenix squad that has not yet fallen in 16 league contests this year.

Senior Ceremonies: Prior to their game against the Phoenix, the Bulldogs will recognize their four senior members - Lade Akande, Candyce Brown, Candace Jones and Tara Miller - for their accomplishments while at Butler. The quartet has combined for nearly 3,000 points, 1,500 rebounds and over 700 assists in their careers while playing in more than 400 games with the Bulldogs.

Record Year: Butler's 12-3 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since 1997-98, while the 12 wins are tied for the fourth-most in school history and are just two shy of the program's highest total of 14 set in 1992-93.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Green Bay will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. Mark Minner and Kelly Antcliff will have the call for the game, which 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 12 of their first 15 Horizon League contests by holding all but five 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' 16 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 (10.7 points, 5.9 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (10.7, 7.6) and Susan Lester (9.9, 5.8) have been among the team's leading scorers and rebounders all season. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (10.6 points, 39 three-pointers) has been the most effective long-range scorer, while sophomore Terra Burns (2.4 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.8) are two of the team's best helpers 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 over 38 percent of the squad's offensive output.

A Look At The Phoenix: Winners of 16-straight games, Green Bay enters Saturday's game with a 24-3 overall record and a perfect 16-0 league mark on the year. The Phoenix has out-scored its opponents by over 15 points per game thanks in part to a league-best .460 field goal percentage and a defense that allows foes a conference-low .381 efficiency. Senior center Lavesa Glover leads the way with 11.2 points per game, senior forward Erin Templin boasts a team-best 5.3 rebounds and senior guard Kati Harty touts a team-high 4.1 assists.

Trying To End The Skid: A win by the Bulldogs on Saturday would end a 25-game losing streak to the Phoenix that dates back to the 1998-99 season. It is the longest such streak to any one opponent in Butler history.

The Series Against Green Bay: Butler and Green Bay will be meeting for the 39th time in women's basketball, with the Phoenix holding a 31-7 advantage in the all-time series. The Bulldogs claimed a 61-56 win in the first meeting during the 1981-82 season and six of the next 12 match-ups until the 1998-99 campaign, but Green Bay has taken control of the series since then by winning 25 in a row, including a 91-64 decision over the Bulldogs in the Horizon League Championship game in 2007 and a 58-53 decision earlier this season.

The Last Time Against Green Bay: 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.

Butler Holds Off Panthers: Brittany Bowen tallied 20 points, Melanie Thornton and Susan Lester added double-figure scoring totals and the Bulldogs used a solid 84-percent effort from the free throw line to help edge out Milwaukee, 74-71, in an overtime thriller on Thursday evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. A game that featured 11 ties and lead changes needed more than the 40 minutes of regulation to be decided, as the Bulldogs rallied back from a four-point deficit late in the second half to force the extra period before using three clutch three-point plays and a 6-for-6 effort from the line to help secure the win.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive player in the last 18 games, leading the team with 13.1 points per contest on 49.7 percent shooting from the field (78-for-157), 45.3 percent from three-point range (34-for-75) and 93.9 percent from the free throw line (46-of-49). 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 and eight rebounds. Since then, she has recorded 13 double-figure scoring games - including two with 20 or more 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 37th in the NCAA in scoring defense (56.1 ppg) as well as second in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (38.3 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.

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.

Century Mark: The Bulldogs' win over UIC on Feb. 12 gave head coach Beth Couture her 100th victory at Butler. Her 102 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 boosted her record above .500 for the first time in her six-plus seasons at the helm. She currently boasts a 102-100 mark at Butler. 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 360-217 (.624) record in over 19 seasons of coaching between both Butler and Presbyterian College.

You're Number Two: With 1,637 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 726 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 48 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 11 statistical categories, including scoring average, rebounding average, field goal percentage 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 926 career points, junior Susan Lester needs to average 18.5 points per game in the final four 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 106. Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 14-1 on the year when leading 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 25.5 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 12-3 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 48-24 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: A deep bench has been critical to the Bulldogs' success this year. In fact, the Butler bench has out-scored its opponents' reserves by a staggering 285 point margin (636 to 351) for an average of 11 more points per game (24.5 to 13.5). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 11 of 26 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for over 38 percent of the team's total offense (636 of 1,664).

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 15.7 turnovers per game, including season-low nine at IPFW on Nov. 18. The Bulldogs' average puts them at the top of the league standings and 45th in the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game, while their +3.6 turnover margin is second in the conference 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).

Post Presence: The Bulldogs are 11-3 on the season and 6-0 in league play when at least two members of their post trio of senior Lade Akande and juniors Susan Lester and Melanie Thornton finish with double-figure point totals.

Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has put together a year to remember. Her 277 points, 197 rebounds and 64 steals through 26 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 7.6 rebounds per game are tops on the team, while her 10.5 points per contest are the 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 is listed in the league's top-10 in five categories, including second place in defensive boards and third place marks in blocks and total rebounds.

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 2.5 steals per game rank among the best in the country this year, as her average puts her 59th in all of the NCAA Division I.

Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 16-1 on the season when it out-scores its opponents from the free throw line, including a perfect 11-0 mark in league play.

Charitable Efforts: Brittany Bowen paces the Horizon League with a .949 free throw percentage in conference play, hitting 37 of her 39 attempts from the line.

What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 13-3 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 leads the Bulldogs with 28.5 minutes played per league game.

Making Her Point: In just her second season, sophomore 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 19 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in the last 16 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.4 assists per game and boasts 7.3 points per game in league contests.

Dominating The League Stats: As if the 12-3 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs rank among the top-three in the league in a total of 11 conference-only statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin, rebounds and blocks.

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.

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. 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 17 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.

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.

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.

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 opens up a two-game regular-season-ending road swing on Thursday (March 5) when it takes on host Youngstown State beginning at 7:05 p.m. in the Beeghly Center.