November 16, 2007

Butler Gets Tough Road Test At No. 23 Purdue On Saturday

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GAME 3
Butler (2-0) at No. 23 Purdue (1-0)
November 17, 2007 - 7:00 p.m. ET
Mackey Arena - West Lafayette, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler goes for its third-straight win to open the 2007-08 season when it heads to West Lafayette, Ind., for a battle with No. 23 Purdue on Saturday (Nov. 17) beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET in Mackey Arena. At 2-0 on the year, the Bulldogs are off to their best start since the 1992-93 season.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Live stats from Butler's game at Purdue can be followed online for free via Gametracker and can be accessed by going to www.ButlerSports.com and clicking on the Gametracker link on the calendar at the bottom of the page.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler aims for its first 3-0 start to a season since the 1990-91 squad began the year at 10-0. After finishing second in the NCAA Division I with 8.4 three pointers made per game in 2006-07, the Bulldogs will turn to the play of it's post players to drive the offense in 2007-08. Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester, the top returning scorers and rebounders from last year, have continued the trend in the first two games of the year, with Akande averaging 18.0 points per game and 4.0 boards and Lester netting 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest. Junior guard Candace Jones has stepped up as a force on the perimeter, averaging 9.0 points and 4.5 rebounds, while junior forward Tara Miller leads the team with 4.0 assists per game and has added 4.0 points. Freshman Brittany Bowen has played admirably as a starter in her first two collegiate contests, averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman bring leadership to the floor and add an outside threat to the post position. Sophomore Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic presence at the post, while junior Candyce Brown brings strong defensive prowess on the perimeter. Rookie forwards Chloe Hamilton, Amie Kabara and Jenny Ostrom, as well as freshman guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth.

A Look At The Boilermakers: Saturday's contest will be the sixth meeting between the two in-state schools, with Purdue owning a 5-0 record in the series that began in the 1986-87 season and has featured match-ups in the last two years. The Boilermakers claimed a convincing victory over Butler last season at Hinkle Fieldhouse, as 10th-ranked Purdue shot 53.3 percent from the field to claim an 81-38 decision. Purdue takes a 1-0 record and a No. 23 national ranking into this weekend's contest after holding on for a close, 65-62, victory over Valparaiso in its season-opener on Nov. 12.

Defense Reigns As Butler Tops Bradley, 56-46: Lade Akande tallied 13 points, Candace Jones and Susan Lester finished with 12 points a piece and Butler led throughout in topping host Bradley, 56-46, at Robertson Field House on Nov. 13. The Bulldogs (2-0) held the Braves (0-2) to just 33 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-5 from three point while using four treys and a 12-of-16 mark from the free throw line to power their offense. Akande finished with a 6-for-9 mark from the field, scoring all 13 of her points in the first half. Lester added a 4-for-10 trek, including a 3-for-6 mark from three-point, and pulled in a game-high eight rebounds. Jones finished 3-for-4 from the field and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line while chipping in five boards.

Not A Bad Start: The win over Bradley on Nov. 13 gives Butler a 2-0 start to the season, a feat that has not been accomplished by a Bulldogs' team since the 1992-93 squad topped both Cincinnati and West Virginia to start the year. In fact, Butler's victory over Ohio on Nov. 10 was the program's first win in a season-opener since the 1998-99 team topped Michigan State, 70-62, to begin the year. Meanwhile, a win by the Bulldogs over Purdue would give Butler its' best start to a season since the 1990-91 team began the year at 10-0.

Taking A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. In the Bulldogs' first two games this year, they have held their opponents to a .362 shooting percentage from the field and have recorded nine blocked shots, including three each from Lade Akande and Tara Miller.

Akande Garners Weekly Award: After notching a game-high 23 points in helping the Bulldogs to a 59-58 season-opening victory over Ohio on Nov. 10, Lade Akande was named the Horizon League's first Player of the Week this season. The Robinson, Ill., native posted an 8-for-11 mark from the field and added a strong 7-of-9 trek from the free throw line to lead all scorers with 23 points. She also pulled in a team-high six rebounds while playing 35 minutes.

Centers Of Attention: The Bulldogs have been one of the best teams in the nation when it comes to shooting the three ever since head coach Beth Couture arrived at the Indianapolis campus, 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 will probably be seeing a lot more action from inside the three-point arc, as junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester will be relied upon to provide the bulk of the offense. The tandem has already gotten off to a great start this year, with Akande leading the team with 18.0 points per game and Lester ranking second with 12.0 per contest.

...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 won't be eliminating their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler has drained 10 three pointers on 38 attempts in its first two contests. In fact, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled seven.

Three-Point Defense: Adding to the effect of Butler's three-point attack this year has been the Bulldogs' ability to keep their opponents from converting long range shots. In the first two games this year, Butler's foes have gone just 2-for-14 (14.3 percent) from beyond the arc.

Getting Her Chance: Junior Candace Jones has been one of the Bulldogs' top reserve guards during the last two seasons, coming off the bench in 49 of her 60 games played while serving as a back-up to two-time all-league player Jackie Closser. The graduation of Closser last season left Jones as the favorite to fill the starting spot, and the Indianapolis native has stepped up big for the Bulldogs, averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season.

Butler Picked Third In Preseason Poll: The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the Horizon League this season, according to the 2007-08 Horizon League Preseason Poll. Butler earned 238 points in the poll, including five first-place votes, and finished just 15 points behind first-place Milwaukee. The poll is voted on by the league's head coaches, sports information directors and media members.

Akande, Lester Named To Preseason Teams: Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester were both named to the 2007-08 Preseason All-Horizon League Teams. Akande earned a spot on the all-league first team, while Lester was tabbed to the all-league second team. Butler was the only school to have multiple players mentioned on the squads.

Getting There In A Hurry: Not too many Butler players have had better starts to their careers than Lade Akande. The Robinson, Ill. native was dominant on offense in her first season with the team in 2005-06, finishing with 470 points for the highest total in school history by a freshman. She continued that trend as one of the Bulldogs' top scorers last year, tallying 408 points for 878 in her first two seasons. After tallying 36 points in the Bulldogs' first two games this year, Akande now needs just 86 points to reach 1,000 and is on pace to become the first Butler player since Jennifer Marlow (1998-99) to reach the milestone before her senior season.

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 beginning with 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.

An Upward Trend: The Bulldogs have steadily improved under the tutelage of head coach Beth Couture, and last season was the finest yet. The 16 wins gave the Bulldogs their highest single-season total since the 1998-99 squad finished at 17-11. Additionally, Butler's 11 wins in Horizon League play were the most during Couture's tenure, while the second-place finish was the highest final standing since the 1997-98 season.

...And The Wins Should Continue: Head coach Beth Couture recently signed a five-year contract extension 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 heads south to Coral Gables, Fla., when it takes part in the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament from Nov. 23-24. The Bulldogs face Monmouth in the opening game at 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 23 before taking on either Miami or Fordham the following day.