Bulldogs Open League Play Against Reigning Tourney Champ Cleveland State

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GAME 12
Cleveland State (6-6, 0-0 HL) at Butler (5-6, 0-0 HL)
Saturday, Jan. 3 - 2:00 p.m.
Hinkle Fieldhouse - Indianapolis, Ind.

The Opening Tip: Butler enters the New Year this Saturday (Jan. 3) while kicking off the 2008 Horizon League schedule, as the Bulldogs welcome 2008 league tournament championship Cleveland State to Indianapolis for a 2:00 p.m. battle at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Winners in four of its last six games, Butler will try open the conference season with a victory while avenging a 79-68 league tournament quarterfinal defeat to the Vikings last March.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Butler's contest against Cleveland State 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, which can be viewed by clicking the Gametracker link on www.ButlerSports.com.

The Bulldogs At A Glance: Winners of four of their last six games, the Bulldogs open Horizon League play on Saturday (Jan. 3) when they host Cleveland State. Butler has battled through a challenging non-conference schedule that has featured six teams which advanced to post-season play in 2007-08, including nationally-ranked Ohio State, Dayton, Nebraska, Evansville, Indiana and Miami (Ohio). A duo of post players has been the driving force behind the team this season, as junior Melanie Thornton (13.6 points, 8.5 rebounds) and senior Lade Akande (13.0, 6.8) leading the team in both points and rebounds. Success on the perimeter has been the team's critical element, however, as the Bulldogs' five wins have come only after scoring at least five three pointers. Sophomore Brittany Bowen (8.5 points, 16 three-pointers), junior Susan Lester (7.1, 10), senior Candace Jones (4.6, 11) and freshman Devin Brierly (4.5, 11) have helped the Bulldogs average 6.7 threes in their last six games. Sophomore Terra Burns and seniors Candyce Brown and Tara Miller have added steady offense and strong defense on the perimeter, while sophomores Azjah Bass and Chloe Hamilton provide depth off the bench.

A Look At The Vikings: Cleveland State enters this weekend's match-up with a 6-6 overall record after claiming wins in its last two contests, including a 75-48 triumph over Buffalo on Monday (Dec. 29). The Vikings have used a strong inside game to power their offense, as over 80 percent of their field goals have come from inside the arc. Junior guard Kailey Klein, a Preseason All-Horizon League First Team member, paces the squad with 19.2 points per and 3.3 assists per contest. Senior forward Dominique Butler leads the way with 6.8 rebounds per game and has added 11.3 points per game, while sophomore guard Shawnita Garland also averages double-figure scoring with 10.5 points.

A Look At The Series: Saturday's contest against Cleveland State will be the 30th meeting between Butler and CSU in women's basketball, with the Bulldogs holding an 19-10 advantage in the series that began during the 1994-95 season. The Bulldogs claimed the first eight matches and nine of the first 10 before the Vikings notched victories in seven of the following eight games. Butler had won eight in a row before CSU snapped the streak with a win last January. The Bulldogs rebounded with a convincing 77-55 win on March 1, but Cleveland State avenged the loss less than two weeks later in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship on March 12.

The Last Time Against CSU: Butler overcame a 21-point first half deficit to take a three-point lead midway through the second, but host Cleveland State rode a 15-4 run late in the game to hold on for a 79-68 decision in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Championship on March 12 in the Wolstein Center. After the Vikings came out with the hot shooting touch in the first 10 minutes of the game to build up a 33-12 advantage with 9:29 to go, Butler (20-10) steadily climbed back, cutting the deficit to just five a the break before taking its first lead of the contest less than seven minutes into the second period. The Bulldogs could not maintain the difference, however, as CSU took advantage of Butler foul trouble for 10 hits from the line to reclaim the lead before pulling away in the final minutes for the victory.

Battle-Tested: Cleveland State will be the seventh team the Bulldogs will face this year that advanced to post-season play in 2007-08. Butler will match up with a total of eight such teams this season, including CSU, Dayton, Evansville, Green Bay, Indiana, Miami (Ohio), Nebraska and Ohio State. The Bulldogs have won two of the meetings, topping both Evansville (70-52) and Miami (86-81, 2OT).

Bulldogs Roll Past Lady Bucs: Four Butler players scored in double figures - including a career-best 23 by Melanie Thornton - and the Bulldogs used a smothering defense that forced a Horizon League season-high 25 steals to post their largest margin of victory in nearly a decade with a dominant 83-40 win over Christian Brothers on Monday (Dec. 29) evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler finished the second half by out-shooting the Lady Bucs 55.6 percent (15-of-27) to 29.4 percent (5-of-17). In addition to a convincing 42-12 margin in points off turnovers, the Bulldogs dominated in points in the paint (42-20), second chance points (18-2) and bench scoring (30-16).

Large In The Margin: The Bulldogs' 43-point win over Christian Brothers was the team's largest margin of victory in nearly a decade, dating back to an 87-43 thumping of UIC on Feb. 11, 1999. It also ranks as the 15th-largest point differential in a win in program history and is just the 19th decision by 40 or more points. The 1979-80 team holds the school record with an incredible 78-point win coming from a 107-29 trouncing of Earlham on Jan. 26, 1980.

Grand Theft: The Bulldogs' 25 steals against Christian Brothers ranks as a single-game high 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. Terra Burns and Melanie Thornton led the way with six steals a piece, while five others added at least two.

...And Cashing In: Butler certainly took advantage of its 25 steals against CBU, forcing an opponent season-high 30 steals and turning them into 42 points - accounting for more than half of the Bulldogs entire scoring total (83).

Reign Of Threes: While dominant post play has become a trademark of the Bulldogs this season, their ability to score from beyond the arc has been crucial to their success. Butler boasts a 5-2 record when sinking at least five three-pointers in a game and has averaged 7.0 treys in its five victories - compared to 4.0 in its six defeats.

Downtown Living: What a difference some downtown shooting makes. After struggling to just 19 three-pointers through the first five games of the season (3.8 per contest), the Bulldogs have connected for 40 in their last six outings (6.7), including a season-high 10 at Evansville on Dec. 3. The added long-range effort helped the Bulldogs average 14 points more in the last six games than they had in the previous five (70.2 to 56.2).

Bench Dominance: A big reason for the Bulldogs' success this year has been due to the strong play of the bench. Butler has out-scored its opponents in bench scoring in all but one game this year and averages over 13 points more points per game than its foes (26.7 to 13.1). In fact, the Bulldog bench has accounted for nearly 42 percent of its scoring this year (294 of 702 points), while the team's leading scorer in six games has been a bench player.

Bowen To No One: Brittany Bowen has been arguably Butler's hottest player in the last three games, averaging 18.0 points per contest while hitting a total of 11 three-pointers. She tallied the most impressive single-game performance of her career at Miami (Ohio), setting career-highs with 25 points, eight field goals, five three-pointers, eight rebounds and 39 minutes played. She followed that effort by scoring 18 points on four three-pointers against Indiana State and adding 11 points on two treys against Christian Brothers. Her 16 threes lead the team, while her 1.5 triples per contest rank sixth in the league.

Moving Up The Scoring List: Lade Akande continues her ascent up the Bulldogs' all-time scoring list. After notching 11 points against Christian Brothers, she touts 1,503 points in her career - the third-most all-time after passing Jennifer Marlow's total of 1,485. Akande now needs just 15 points to overtake Elza Purvlicis (1,517) for second all-time, but first place is a ways off, as Julie VonDielingen holds the school record with 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.

...Among Other Lists: By pulling in 75 rebounds so far this season, Lade Akande stands in ninth place on the Bulldogs' career rebounding chart with 648 and is just 11 shy of passing both Sue Morris (657) and Liesl Schultz (658) for seventh all time. Akande also finds herself ranked in four other categories, including blocks (120 - 4th) and field goals made (617 - 3rd).

Thornton In Their Side: Melanie Thornton has not had much of a let down in any one of her games this year. The Carmel, Ind., has registered eight double-figure scoring efforts and five double-digit rebounding performances while posting four double-doubles - the first of her collegiate career. Her 23 points scored against Christian Brothers and her 13 rebounds at IPFW are career-highs. She currently leads the team with 13.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per contest.

Quite A Start: Through just 11 games this season, Melanie Thornton has already put together a year to remember. Her 150 points, 93 rebounds and 313 minutes played are already well over her entire season totals from 2007-08 (73 points, 47 rebounds, 148 minutes played) and are quickly approaching her career totals entering the season (176, 141, 488).

Highway Robbery: Thornton's 36 steals this season are easily the most on the team and are already more than she recorded in her entire first two seasons combined (21).

Among The League's Best: Thornton's performance in the first 11 games 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 finds herself listed in the league's top-10 in six categories, including a first-place ranking in defensive rebounds and second-place marks in blocks, steals and total rebounds.

Crime Prevention: Opponents have not had much luck picking the pockets of the Bulldogs in their first seven games of the year. Butler has averaged just 15.7 turnovers per game so far this season, including season-low nine at IPFW. The Bulldogs' average puts them in second place in the league standings in fewest turnovers per game, while their 0.9 assist-to-turnover ratio is second in the conference.

...From Effective Helpers: Three Bulldog players find themselves ranked in the Horizon League's top-10 list in assist-to-turnover ratio heading into Saturday's game. Senior Candyce Brown leads the team and ranks third in the Horizon League with a 2.6 A/T ratio, while senior Tara Miller is fourth with a 1.5 A/T ratio. Additionally, sophomore Brittany Bowen finds herself in an ninth-place tie with a 1.3 A/T ratio.

In Elite Company: Senior center Lade Akande has assembled one of the finest careers in school history during her three-plus years on the team. In fact, this year she accomplished something that only three other Butler players have ever done. Her five rebounds against William & Mary pushed her career rebounding total to 603, making her just the fourth player in Bulldogs history to record over 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocks in their career. She currently touts 1,503 points, 648 rebounds and 120 blocks in her career.

1,000 On The Radar: In her third season with the team, sophomore Susan Lester has totalled 746 points in her career, the second most among Butler's active players. She already finds herself on the Bulldogs' career three-pointers-made list, checking in at 10th with 90.

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.

Butler Basketball On The Web: Twenty-three of the Bulldogs' games this season will feature free live streaming video online. The Horizon League Network will feature 21 of those contests, including all of Butler's home games and every league road game. Additionally, the Bulldogs' games at Ohio State and Indiana were both streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com.

National Attention: The Butler women's basketball team will get national attention later in the season, as the Bulldogs' game against Wright State on Feb. 6 will be broadcast live on ESPNU beginning at 9 p.m. at Hinkle Fieldhouse. It will be the fourth time in four seasons Butler will appear on the ESPN network. The Bulldogs' appearance in the 2007 Horizon League Championship game against Green Bay was broadcast live on ESPNU, while Butler's regular season road games against the Phoenix last spring and during the 2005-06 campaign were both on ESPNU.

Next Up: Butler closes out its four-game homestand on Monday (Jan. 5) when it welcomes league rival Youngstown State to Hinkle Fieldhouse for a 7:00 p.m. contest.