Bulldogs Battle Evansville For Fifth-Straight Win On Thursday

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GAME 8
Evansville (4-3) at Butler (6-1)
Thursday, Dec. 6 - 7:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: The Bulldogs aim to continue their torrid start to the 2007-08 season on Thursday (Dec. 6) as they vie for their fifth-straight victory against Evansville beginning at 7:00 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. A win by Butler would give the team its longest winning streak since the 1997-98 squad reeled off 15 consecutive triumphs.

Start `Em Up: The Bulldogs' 6-1 start to the season is the program's best record since 1994-95, when the squad began the year at 7-1. Butler's record for most wins with only one loss occurred during the 1980-81 season, when the Bulldogs stumbled just once in their first 26 games played before finishing the year at 26-2.

Speaking Of Great Starts: The 1978-79 Butler team holds the school record for best winning percentage in a season, going 23-1 to win 95.8 percent of its games. In fact, that year's squad won the first 23 games it played before falling in the postseason.

...And As If That Wasn't Enough: The Bulldogs followed their overpowering 1978-79 campaign with another run at perfection, going 21-0 to start the 1979-80 season before falling in postseason play to finish at 21-1.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's game against the Purple Aces 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 (6-1) vies for its fifth-straight win on Thursday after out-shooting Oakland City, 77-46, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Dec. 3. The Bulldogs have been one of the top defensive teams in the Horizon League this year, holding opponents to a league-low 57.1 points per game. Junior center Lade Akande has been one of the hottest players in the conference in the early season, leading the Bulldogs with 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Sophomore forward Susan Lester has been nearly as dominant in the post, tallying 11.1 points and 5.7 boards per contest while adding outside shooting with a team-best 12 three-pointers. Junior guard Candace Jones continues to be a force on the perimeter, averaging 8.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists, while freshman guard Brittany Bowen has played like a vet in the first seven games of her collegiate career, averaging 6.7 points and 4.3 boards. Junior forward Tara Miller not only leads the team in minutes played (28.9 per game) but ranks among the best in the NCAA at handling the ball with a 2.86 assists-to-turnovers ratio. 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 posts Chloe Hamilton and Amie Kabara, as well as freshman guards Azjah Bass and Terra Burns, add depth.

A Look At The Purple Aces: Evansville comes to town with a 4-3 record on the year after topping IUPUI, 59-53, on Sunday (Dec. 2). The Purple Aces, who are averaging 68.7 points per contest, are led on the scoring front by senior guards Courtney Felke (13.6 ppg) and Rebekah Parker (13.4 ppg). Junior center Shannon Novosel has pulled down a team-best 7.9 rebounds per contest, while Felke has added a team-high 3.4 assists per game. Head coach Tricia Cullop is 106-101 in her eighth year at Evansville.

The Match-Up At A Glance: Butler and Evansville will be meeting for the 34th time on Thursday, with the Bulldogs holding an 18-15 margin in the all-time record. After winning four of the first five match-ups from 1979-84, Butler came up on the short end in nine of 10 meetings from 1984-89 while the two teams resided in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs turned the tables during the 1990's, however, claiming wins in 11 of 12 contests before the Purple Aces moved to the Missouri Valley Conference in 1994. Following a seven-year layoff, the two teams have met six times since the 2000-01 season, with Butler going 2-4 in that stretch.

The Magic Number - 13: After leading the team with 109 points so far this season, junior center Lade Akande sits just 13 points away from becoming only the 19th player in Butler history with 1,000 points in her career. She is also on pace to become the first Bulldog player to reach the milestone before her senior year since Jennifer Marlow netted her 1,000th point during the 1997-98 season. Akande has had one of the best starts to her career in school history, totaling a freshman-record 470 points in her first year before notching 408 as a sophomore.

Home Sweet Home: After spending five of the first six games of the season away from Hinkle Fieldhouse, the Bulldogs will spend four-straight contests in Indianapolis. Butler opened the homestand against Oakland City on Dec. 3 and will take on Evansville on Dec. 6. After a break for finals, Butler hosts Tennessee State on Dec. 16 and closes out the stretch on Dec. 20 against IPFW.

Butler Tops Oakland City, 77-46: Lade Akande led all scorers with 19 points and nine rebounds, Melanie Thornton added a career-best 13 points and the Bulldogs shot a season-high 49.2 percent from the field in upending visiting Oakland City, 77-46, on Dec. 3 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler held a commanding 50-18 point edge in the paint and a 15-2 margin in fast-break points while taking advantage of 31 OCU turnovers.

A Thorn-ton In Their Side: Sophomore Melanie Thornton really gave visiting Oakland City fits on Dec. 3. The 6-1 forward went 6-for-7 from the field and split a pair from the free throw line to finish with a career-high 13 points in just 15 minutes on the floor. She also was a force on the glass, pulling in a season-high eight rebounds.

...And Hamilton Made Every Minute Count: Freshman forward Chloe Hamilton had the finest game of her young career against the Lady Oaks, going 2-of-4 from the field and a smooth 5-for-5 from the line to finish with nine points despite playing just nine minutes.

Akande Nets Third League Honor: The trend of dominance continued for Lade Akande this past weekend, as the 6-1 junior center was named the Horizon League's Player of the Week for the third time in four weeks on Monday (Dec. 3). Akande led the Bulldogs in scoring for the fifth time in six games last weekend, notching a game-high 20 points in just 23 minutes on 9-for-18 shooting from the field against Indiana State on Dec. 1. She also tied her season-high with nine rebounds to finish just shy of a double-double.

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 57.1 points allowed per game and ranking fifth with a .397 opponent field goal percentage. Butler is also fifth in the conference with 2.4 blocks per contest and tied for fifth with 10.0 steals per game.

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 fourth in the league with 15.6 points per game, while Lester is second on the team and 11th in the conference with 11.1 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 have eliminated their bread-and-butter three-pointer completely. Butler is third in the league with 6.6 three pointers made per game and is second with 136 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 12.

...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 lead the league by holding their foes to a .271 three-point shooting percentage (26-for-96) while allowing just 3.7 treys per game, nearly three less per game than Butler's 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.

Accuracy Counts: Butler's three-point attack features two of the most accurate shooters in the Horizon League. Freshman Brittany Bowen leads the league with a .643 three-point percentage (9-for-14), while senior Cassie Freeman is 12th with a .400 average (6-for-15).

Charitable Work: Junior Candace Jones and sophomore Susan Lester have been two of the most reliable free throw shooters in the Horizon League this season. Jones has hit 17-of-21 from the line and ranks fifth in the league with a .810 percentage, while Lester has converted 16-of-20 for a sixth-place .800 percentage.

Passing With Flying Colors: Junior guard Tara Miller has been one of the Bulldogs' best passers this season, ranking second on the team with 2.9 assists per contest. Meanwhile, she has only turned the ball over on seven occasions to lead the league and rank among the best in the NCAA with an impressive 2.86 assists-to-turnover ratio. Her mark is a big reason why the Bulldogs lead the league with a 0.95 assists to turnover ratio as a team.

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 to fill the starting spot this year, and the Indianapolis native has done an outstanding job, averaging 8.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and a team-high 3.6 assists.

Bow-en To No One: Freshman guard Brittany Bowen might only be in her first year, but she has been playing like a seasoned vet. The Columbus, Ind., native has started in all seven contests this season and ranks fourth on the squad with 6.7 points per game and third with 4.3 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.

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: The Bulldogs take a 10-day break for finals before welcoming Tennessee State to town on Sunday, Dec. 16 for a 3:00 p.m. match against the Tigers.