Bulldogs Open League Tournament Wednesday Against Milwaukee

Bulldogs Open League Tournament Wednesday Against Milwaukee

March 10, 2009

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Milwaukee (13-17) at Butler (19-10)
Wednesday, March 11 - 7:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs kick off the 2009 Speedway Horizon League Women's Basketball Championship as the No. 2 seed and will host No. 7 Milwaukee in the quarterfinals on Wednesday (March 11) evening beginning at 7:00 p.m. inside Hinkle Fieldhouse. After finishing the regular season with a program-record 14 wins in Horizon League play, Butler begins its bid for its first league championship since 1996 against a tough Panthers team that defeated Youngstown State on Monday (March 9) in the opening round of the tournament.

Record Year: Butler's 14-4 league record is the program's best start to the conference season since 1997-98, while the 14 wins are tied for the most in school history with the 1992-93 squad, which went 14-2 under head coach Paulette Stein.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Milwaukee will feature live streaming video online at the Horizon League Network. Mark Minner and Carl Heck 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.

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 14 of their 18 Horizon League contests by holding their opponents to 50 or fewer points in 11 games. Strong defense has been the critical element to the team's success this year, as 16 of the Bulldogs' 19 wins have come by holding their opponents to less than 60 points. Sophomore guard Brittany Bowen paces the team on offense with 10.8 points per game thanks to a team-best 45 three-pointers. A trio of dominant post players have been vital to the team's success, as senior Lade Akande (10.5 points, 5.7 rebounds) and juniors Melanie Thornton (10.1, 7.3) and Susan Lester (10.1, 6.0) have been among the team's top scorers and rebounders all season. Sophomore Terra Burns (2.3 assists) and senior Candyce Brown (1.8) are two of the team's best helpers and provide strong perimeter defense. The Butler bench, meanwhile has out-scored their foes' reserves in all but three games this year.

A Look At The Panthers: No. 7-seeded Milwaukee takes a 13-17 overall record into Wednesday's quarterfinal game after claiming a 70-49 victory over 10th-seeded Youngstown State on Monday (March 9). The Panthers are led by senior center and Co-Horizon League Player of the Year Traci Edwards, who paces the conference with 17.9 points and 9.0 rebounds per contest. Sophomore forward Lindsay Laur has added 9.2 points thanks to a team-high 35 three-pointers, while junior guard Jodie McClain leads the way with 2.7 assists per contest.

The Series Against UWM: Butler and Milwaukee will square off for the 33rd time in women's basketball on Wednesday, with the Panthers holding a 17-15 edge in the all-time series that dates back to the 1981-82 campaign. Butler, however, holds an 8-7 edge in games played at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Bulldogs 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 12 contests, including a 74-71 overtime victory by the Bulldogs in the last meeting on Feb. 26.

The Last Time Against Milwaukee: 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 Feb. 26 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.

Butler Rallies Past CSU: Susan Lester scored a game-high 22 points, Brittany Bowen and Melanie Thornton added double-figure scoring totals and the Bulldogs held off host Cleveland State to match the Butler record for conference wins with a 68-59 victory over the Vikings on Saturday (March 7) at the Wolstein Center. The win was the Bulldogs' 14th of league play, matching the 1992-93 squad's record for most conference wins. Lester went 8-for-13 from the field and 2-of-4 from beyond the arc to lead all scorers with 22 points and finished just one rebound shy of a double-double with nine. Bowen added a 4-of-8 effort and a 3-for-3 mark from long range for 13 points, while Thornton chipped in 11 points and six boards.

All Alone At No. 2: The Bulldogs finished the regular season alone in second place with a 14-4 conference record. The second-place standing is the team's best out-right finish since the 1997-98 team finished as the league's regular season champion. The 2006-07 squad ended up tied with UIC for the second spot.

Defensive Recognition: After concluding a break-out regular season in which she ranked in among the best in the Horizon League in steals, blocks and defensive rebounds, Butler junior forward Melanie Thornton was named to the conference's All-Defensive Team. The Carmel, Ind., native wrapped up a 2008-09 campaign in which she ranked second in the league with 5.3 defensive rebounds per game, third with 1.2 blocked shots per contest and sixth with 2.3 steals per game. Her 7.3 rebounds, 67 steals and 36 blocks lead the squad, while her 10.1 points are the fourth-most.

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 tops in the conference in opponent field goal percentage (38.6 percent).

Keep It Under 60: The Bulldogs are 16-2 this season when they hold their opponent to fewer than 60 points.

...But 50 Is Better: Butler is 14-0 on the year and 11-0 in league play when it holds opponents to 50 or fewer points.

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.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been Butler's top offensive player in the last 21 games, leading the team with 13.0 points per contest on 49.7 percent shooting from the field (90-for-181), 47.1 percent from three-point range (40-for-85) and 89.8 percent from the free throw line (53-of-59). 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 16 double-figure scoring games - including two with 20 or more points.

You're Number Two: With 1,665 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 is pretty much 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 738 career rebounds, Lade Akande sits alone in fifth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart. She'll need 36 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 962 career points, junior Susan Lester has a chance to become the 20th player in school history with 1,000 career points this season. If Butler advances to the Horizon League Championship game, she would need to average just over 12 points per game to reach the total. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, ranking in a tie for seventh with 110.

Get Ahead And Stay Ahead: Butler is 16-1 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.

Century Mark: The Bulldogs' win over UIC on Feb. 12 gave head coach Beth Couture her 100th victory at Butler. Her 104 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 104-101 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 362-218 (.624) record in over 19 seasons of coaching between both Butler and Presbyterian College.

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 25.3 points in the opening period - the second-lowest mark in the league - and has held nine opponents to 20 or fewer first-half points, including seven 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 14-4 start to 2009), the Bulldogs boast a remarkable 50-25 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 319 point margin (703 to 384) for an average of 11 more points per game (24.2 to 13.2). In fact, the team's leading scorer in 12 of 29 games has come off the bench, while the bench as a whole has accounted for nearly 38 percent of the team's total offense (703 of 1,857).

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 52nd in the NCAA in fewest turnovers per game, while their +3.5 turnover margin is second in the conference and 42nd in the nation.

Battle-Tested: The Bulldogs played 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 won four of the meetings during the regular slate, topping CSU twice (55-46 and 68-59) as well as Evansville (70-52) and Miami (86-81, 2OT).

Post Presence: The Bulldogs are 12-3 on the season and 7-0 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.

Taking Advantage Of Charity: Butler is 18-1 on the season when it equals or tops its opponent's output from the free throw line, including a perfect 13-0 mark in league play.

Charitable Efforts: Brittany Bowen leads the Horizon League with a .898 free throw percentage in conference play, hitting 44 of her 49 attempts from the line. Quite A Year: Melanie Thornton has put together a year to remember. Her 293 points, 212 rebounds and 67 steals through 29 games this year have already well surpassed her career totals in her 55 games combined as a freshman and sophomore (176, 141, 21). Her 7.3 rebounds per game are tops on the team, while her 10.1 points per contest are the fourth 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.

What Can Brown Do For You?: It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that the Bulldogs are an impressive 15-4 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 28.9 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 21 games this season - the first of her career - and has been the Butler starter at the one-guard in 18 of the last 19 contests. She has averaged a team-high 2.3 assists per game and boasts 6.9 points per game in league contests.

Dominating The League Stats: As if the 14-4 league record wasn't indicative enough. The Bulldogs rank among the top-three in the league in a total of 10 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, 11 of Butler's 18 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: A win against Milwaukee would send the Bulldogs to the semifinals of the league tournament, where it would meet the winner of Wednesday's battle between No. 6 UIC and No. 3 Cleveland State. The semifinals and championship will be played at the highest remaining seed, which would be Butler should No. 1 Green Bay fall to No. 8 Detroit on Wednesday.