November 27, 2007

Bulldogs Vie For Third-Straight Win On Saturday Against Indiana State

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GAME 6
Butler (4-1) vs. Indiana State (4-1)
State Farm Hoosier Classic
December 1, 2007 - 2:00 p.m. ET
Athletics-Recreation Center - Valparaiso, Ind.

The Opening Tip: After taking home the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament title over the weekend, the Bulldogs will play for their fifth win of the year and third in a row on Saturday (Dec. 1) when they take on Indiana State in the State Farm Hoosier Classic beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET in the Athletics-Recreation Center on the campus of Valparaiso University. The game will be video-streamed live online through the Horizon League Network.

A Busy Stretch: The Bulldogs open up the first of three games in a six day span on Saturday against Indiana State. Following the bout with the Sycamores on Dec. 1, Butler returns to Hinkle Fieldhouse for the first time since Nov. 10 when they host Oakland City on Dec. 3 before welcoming Evansville to Indianapolis three days later on Dec. 6.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Sycamores can be viewed online through 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.

Previewing The Bulldogs: Butler (4-1) vies for its third-straight win on Saturday after defeating Monmouth and host Miami (Fla.) last weekend to claim the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament Championship. The Bulldogs have been turning to the play of their post players to drive the offense in 2007-08 after finishing second in the NCAA Division I with 8.4 three pointers made per game last year. Junior center Lade Akande and sophomore forward Susan Lester have been the top scoring threats on the team, with Akande pacing the squad with 14.0 points per game and Lester averaging 11.4 per contest. Junior guard Candace Jones has been a force on the perimeter, averaging 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has played like a vet in the first five games of her collegiate career, averaging 6.2 points and 4.6 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller has found her shooting stroke of late, boosting her scoring to 5.4 points per game while adding 3.0 assists. Senior forwards and co-captains Candace Bain and Cassie Freeman bring leadership to the floor and add consistent scoring and rebounding off the bench. Sophomore forward Melanie Thornton provides a quick and athletic presence at the post, while junior guard 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 Sycamores: Indiana State enters the State Farm Hoosier Classic with a 4-1 record after claiming an 85-76 victory at Eastern Illinois on Thursday (Nov. 29), as junior guard Angela Phillips led the squad with 33 points and ISU shot 49 percent from the field. The Sycamores have featured high-octane offense all season, averaging 75.4 points per game while scoring over 80 on two occasions. Thanks in large part to her performance on Thursday, Phillips leads the team with 16.6 points per game, while senior center Laura Rudolphi (14.2) and sophomore guard Kelsey Luna (14.0) join her with double-figure totals. Junior forward Kara Schilli paces the team with 6.8 rebounds per game.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler holds a 9-8 all-time record against Indiana State dating back to the 1982-83 season. After winning the first ever match, the Bulldogs claimed only one victory in the next seven games against the Sycamores before running off a streak of seven-straight wins from 1989-90 to 1995-96. Following a six-year lay-off, the series resumed in 2002 under Beth Couture, with Indiana State winning both match-ups since then.

Butler In The State Farm Hoosier Classic: The Bulldogs hold a 1-6 all-time record in the State Farm Hoosier Classic, dating back to the 2000-01 season. Butler scored its lone win in the first year of the tournament, defeating Valparaiso 67-60. The Bulldogs have met Indiana State twice in the tourney, with the Sycamores winning 102-72 in 2002 and 85-72 in 2005.

Butler Claims Miami Tourney Title: Tara Miller and Candace Jones converted four clutch free throw attempts in the final seven seconds and the Bulldogs used a powerful defensive stand late in the game to claim the University of Miami Thanksgiving Tournament Championship with a nail-biting 62-59 victory over the host Hurricanes on Nov. 24 at the BankUnited Center in Coral Gables, Fla. After playing through a somewhat timid first period, the Bulldogs came out on fire in the second, out-scoring Miami 38-31 while shooting 53.6 percent (15-of-28) from the field. Lade Akande led all scorers with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Jones added 14 points and Susan Lester scored 12 and pulled in seven boards.

Akande, Jones Earn Honors: Lade Akande and Candace Jones each earned a spot on the Miami Thanksgiving Tournament All-Tournament Team. Akande was named the Tournament MVP after posting 34 points and 17 rebounds in two games, while Jones earned a spot after finishing with 26 points, 10 assists and six rebounds in the two contests.

...And The League Honors Akande Too: The accolades continued to come in for Lade Akande on Monday (Nov. 26), as the Horizon League recognized the Butler junior as the Player of the Week. It was the second time in just three weeks this season that Akande was given the weekly honor. She was also named the first player of the week this year on Nov. 14.

The Second Time's The Charm: Head coach Beth Couture must be delivering some really motivating halftime speeches, because Butler has played some of its best basketball in the second half. In their last three contests, the Bulldogs have combined for 108 points following the break while recording just 70 before intermission, an average improvement of 12.7 points from the first half to the second.

Taking A Stand: A defensive stand, that is. The Bulldogs have been among the best in the Horizon League this season when it comes to keeping opponents off the board, leading the league with only 56.8 points allowed per game and fifth with a .397 opponent field goal percentage. Butler is also third in the conference with 3.0 blocks per contest and fifth with 9.0 steals per game.

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 70 points in the Bulldogs' first five games this year, Akande now needs just 52 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.

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 ranked 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 provided the bulk of the offense. Akande currently leads the squad and ranks fifth in the league with 14.0 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 15th in the conference with 11.4 points to her credit.

...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 will be eliminating their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is third in the league with 6.2 three pointers made per game and is second with 99 attempts on the year. In fact, the Bulldogs' leading culprit for hitting the three has been none other than post player Susan Lester, who has totaled nine.

...And How About That Three-Point Defense: Adding to the effect of Butler's three-point attack this year has been its ability to keep their opponents from converting long range shots. The Bulldogs rank third in the league by holding their foes to a .267 three-point shooting percentage (16-for-10) while allowing just 3.2 treys per game, nearly half of Butler's current average. In fact, in their first two games of the year, the Bulldogs held foes Ohio (1-for-9) and Bradley (1-for-5) to just one three-pointer each.

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 done an outstanding job, averaging 8.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and a team-high 3.4 assists this season.

Bow-en To No One: Freshman guard Brittany Bowen might have only four collegiate games under her belt, but she has been playing like a seasoned vet. The Columbus, Ind., native has started in all five contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 6.2 points per game and third with 4.6 rebounds. Her biggest performance came against some tough competition, as she went 4-for-7 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc for 11 points and added six rebounds at No. 23 Purdue on Nov. 17.

Charitable Work: Sophomore Susan Lester and junior Candace Jones have been two of the most reliable free throw shooters in the Horizon League this season. Lester has drained 10-of-11 shots from the charity stripe for a league-leading .909 percentage, while Jones has hit 17-of-21 to rank sixth with an .810 percentage.

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.

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.

An Upward Trend: The Bulldogs have steadily improved under the tutelage of head coach Beth Couture, and the 2006-07 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 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 will have little rest before their next contest, as the Bulldogs return to Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday (Dec. 3) when they open a four-game homestand against Oakland City beginning at 7:00 p.m.