December 26, 2006

Butler Opens League Slate At Cleveland State On Thursday

Dec. 26, 2006

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Game #12 Butler (3-8, 0-0) at Cleveland State (3-10, 0-0)
Date: Thursday, December 28, 2006
Time: 7:00 p.m. EST
Location: Wolstein Center (13,610) Cleveland, Ohio

Tip-Off: The Bulldogs open up the Horizon League schedule at Cleveland State when Butler takes on the Vikings on Thursday (Dec. 28) beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Wolstein Center. The contest will be the 25th meeting between the two schools, with the Bulldogs leading the all-time series record at 16-8, including wins in the last six games. Head coach Beth Couture is 7-2 against the Vikings in her four seasons with the Bulldogs.

Butler Basketball on the Web: Cory Schnurbusch serves as the play-by-play voice of the Butler women's basketball team for the 2006-07 season. The broadcasts will feature live game action on the web at www.ButlerSports.com and will be offered for free. Butler will also have video streaming available for all home contests during the year.

Previewing The Bulldogs: The Bulldogs (3-8) continue to use the three-pointer as their main offensive weapon this season, with over a third (79-of-234) of their field goals coming from beyond the arc. Senior guard Jackie Closser leads the team with 12.1 points per game thanks in part to 22 treys, and senior guard Ellen Hamilton has hit a team-best 25 triples for 10.2 ppg. In her two games with the Bulldogs since transferring from Indiana, sophomore guard/forward Tara Miller has provided and offensive boost with 13.0 ppg and 3.0 rebounds. Junior forward Cassie Freeman adds a three-point threat from the post position with a .484 three-point percentage, while sophomore center Lade Akande gives the Bulldogs a strong inside presence with 11.7 ppg and 3.8 rpg. Sophomores Candyce Brown and Candace Jones have each added depth on the perimeter, while freshmen forwards Susan Lester and Mel Thornton are the top post options off the bench. Head coach Beth Couture (310-191) is in her fifth season with the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs Run Away With Win Against TSU: Butler put together one of its strongest offensive performances and clamped down on the defensive end to oust host Tennessee State in a 85-57 victory at the Gentry Center on Wednesday (Dec. 20). A tight affair quickly turned into a route, as the Bulldogs held the Tigers to just three points in the final seven minutes of the first half. Lade Akande paced the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Jackie Closser finished with 17 and Tara Miller added 12.

Wait A Little Longer: She gave it her best, but Ellen Hamilton's 1,000th point was not in the cards against Tennessee State. The senior guard finished with seven points in the contest, leaving her a mere three points shy of becoming Butler's 18th player to reach 1,000.

Closser Moves Up The List: After becoming the 17th player in school history with 1,000 points against Louisville (Dec. 18), Jackie Closser continues to move up the all-time scoring list. Her 1,023 career points now rank as the 15th-most all-time and is just eight points behind 14th-place Nancy Bowden (1,031). The school-record, however, is a ways off, as Julie VonDielingen notched 2,018 in her career from 1990-94.

It's Miller Time: Sophomore guard Tara Miller took the floor for the first time in a Butler uniform when the Bulldogs took on Louisville on Dec. 18. Miller was required to sit out for the past two semesters due to residency requirements after transferring from Indiana last fall. The 5-10 guard has started in the last two contests and has provided a boost on both ends of the floor with 13.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg.

Triple Threat: The Bulldogs continue to turn to the three-pointer to power their offense this season. Butler leads the Horizon League with 7.2 three-pointers made per game after leading the conference and ranking fifth in the NCAA in triples last season.

Keeping it Going: With three makes from three-point at Tennessee State on Dec. 20., Jackie Closser extended her consecutive games with a three-pointer to 39 straight. So far this season, she is 22-of-83 from beyond the arc and leads the team with 12.1 points per game. She made sure that every opponent got to feel her wrath from three-point last season, connecting from downtown in all 28 of her games played in 2005-06.

Will The Real Jackie Closser Please Stand Up?: Despite Closser's consistency at hitting three-pointers, she had struggled to find her stroke in the first nine games this season, hitting no more than two in a game. She has returned to her devastating form in the last two contests, however, tying her career-high with six at Louisville on Dec. 18 before hitting three at Tennessee State on Dec. 20.

Hamilton Leads the Way: Senior Ellen Hamilton has been a major factor in the Bulldogs' success from downtown this season, leading the squad with 25 three-pointers and ranking fourth in the Horizon League with 2.3 triples per game.

...And Freeman Makes The Most Of Her Shots: Junior Cassie Freeman has taken advantage of just about every opportunity she has from behind the arc, going 15-of-31 for three and ranking second in the Horizon League with a .484 three-point percentage.

Jones, Miller and Lester: No, it's not a law firm, it's just an example of how many other options the Bulldogs have for pulling the trigger from three. Sophomore guard Candace Jones has hit 5-of-15 from three for a .333 shooting percentage, while sophomore guard Tara Miller netted 6-of-12 in her first two games with the team. Meanwhile, forward Susan Lester has added long range ability from the post position with four treys of her own.

Holiday Vacation: The Bulldogs will be spending quite a bit of time on a bus and in hotel rooms for the next month, as Butler takes to the road for five-straight contests. After making non-conference stops against Louisville (Dec. 18) and Tennessee State (Dec. 20), the Bulldogs open up the Horizon League slate at Cleveland State (Dec. 28) before heading to Youngstown State (Dec. 30) and finishing the swing at Wright State (Jan. 6). Butler returns to Indianapolis on Jan. 11 to host UIC.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have had a rather difficult time attempting to pick the pockets of the Butler players this season. The Bulldogs have yielded 16.1 turnovers per game this year, the second-fewest in the Horizon League, and also rank third in assists-to-turnovers ratio at 0.8. Butler's six turnovers against Air Force on Nov. 22 is also the lowest single-game total in the Horizon League this season.

Taking Advantage of Charity: It's not as if Jackie Closser is asking to go to the free throw line, but, when she does, she makes opponents pay. The senior guard is currently sixth in the league in free-throw efficiency, netting 27 of her 34 attempts for a .794 average.

Under the Radar: You won't find her in the Horizon League rankings, but sophomore guard Candace Jones has been even stronger than Closser from the free-throw line. Jones has converted on 18-of-22 shots from the stripe to lead the team with a .818 free-throw percentage, but she does not qualify for the league standings because her mark falls just below the league minimum of two makes per game. If her figures did count, however, Jones would be fourth in the conference standings.

Adding To Her Repertoire: Sophomore center Lade Akande has always been a presence in the paint for the Bulldogs, but she has just recently become a threat from the free throw line. In the Bulldogs' last three games, Akande has converted 19 of her 26 attempts from the charity stripe for a .731 percentage while tying her career-high for makes with nine against Evansville on Dec. 6. In her first five games, she was just 6-of-20 (.300) on the year. She is currently 14th in the league with a .543 percentage.

Block Party: The Bulldogs are one of the top blocking teams in the Horizon League this year, ranking fourth with 2.9 blocks per game. Three Butler players also find themselves among the top 15 in the conference, with sophomore Lade Akande (1.1 blocks per game) ranking third, freshman Mel Thornton (0.9) fifth and junior Cassie Freeman (0.5) tied for 14th.

A Little Bit Of Help: Jackie Closser has been extremely helpful to the Bulldogs on offense this season and during her career. The senior guard leads the team with 48 assists on the year and is second in the Horizon League with 4.4 assists per game. She also touts 371 assists in her career, the sixth-most in school history, and is just 11 behind Jennifer Marlow's fifth-place total of 382. The school record of 584 is held by Melissa Kilgore.

...And A Big Help All At Once: Closser's 11 assists against Bradley on Nov. 17 were a career-high for the 5-5 guard and is a Horizon League season-high.

Minute Minder: Jackie Closser must really enjoy time-outs, because she doesn't get too many other opportunities to catch her breath. The senior guard has played the full 40 minutes in five of 11 games this season and has played fewer than 37 minutes only once. She currently leads the team and the Horizon League with 38.1 minutes per game. Senior Ellen Hamilton also finds herself among the league leaders, averaging 29.5 minutes per game for 15th place.

Feeling A Little Rejected: You really couldn't blame Air Force if they felt a little intimidated by the Bulldogs in their game on Nov. 22. That's because Butler notched 11 blocks in the contest, the highest single-game total in the Horizon League this season. Six players contributed at least once, with junior Cassie Freeman touting a career-best and league-high four. Additionally, freshmen Julie Seiss (1) and Mel Thornton (2) picked up their first career put-backs.

Hamilton Earns All-Tournament Honors: After putting together a strong offensive effort in Butler's two Great Alaska Shootout games, senior guard Ellen Hamilton was tabbed to the All-Tournament Team. She was one of six players recognized in the tournament after combining for 28 points in the two games, including a Butler-best 17 points on 5-of-9 three-point shooting against UC Riverside in the Bulldogs' tournament opener. She also was a key contributor in Butler's rally against Air Force, finishing with 11 points.

Butler Inks Quartet For 2007: High school stand-outs Azjah Bass, Terra Burns, Chloe Hamilton and Jenny Ostrom have all signed national letters of intent to attend Butler and play basketball beginning in the fall of 2007. All four have earned all-state accolades and are either approaching or have surpassed 1,000 points in their careers.

Lending A Helping Hand: The Butler women's basketball team took time out of their busy schedule on Nov. 4 to assist at the Special Olympics Area 8 Bowling Championships at Woodland Bowl in Indianapolis. Members of the team and coaching staff helped out as lane assistants, runners and scorers for the event and presented the awards to the winners. Special Olympics Indiana provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for persons eight years of age and older with intellectual disabilities.

Bulldogs Tabbed Third: The Bulldogs were picked to finish third in the Horizon League this season in a poll of the league's coaches, sports information directors and media. Butler tallied 192 points in the poll, including one first-place vote, and finished just six points behind second-place UW-Milwaukee (198). UW-Green Bay was selected to win the regular season title, receiving 234 points and 22 of the 27 voters' first-place ballots.

At The Buzzer: The Bulldogs head east to Youngstown State on Dec. 30 when they take on the Penguins beginning at 2:00 p.m. in the Beeghley Center.