"Bulldogs shine in Wooden Tradition

For the first time since 1948-’49, the Butler men’s basketball team has defeated Notre Dame, Indiana and Purdue in the same season. The sweep was completed with the Bulldogs’ 68-65 victory over Purdue this past Saturday at Conseco Fieldhouse.

The team’s latest win over a major Indiana college program opened this year’s Wooden Tradition doubleheader. It also kept Butler’s 2006 record at Conseco perfect (3-0) as the Bulldogs had beaten both Notre Dame (71-69) and Indiana University (60-55) during the preliminary rounds of this year’s pre-season National Invitational Tournament.

Just like the victories over the Fighting Irish and the Hoosiers, the win over the Boilermakers was not an easy one for the 19th-ranked Bulldogs. This time, with Purdue in front 64-63, Butler’s Brandon Crone drove to the basket, scored — and was fouled on the play. Crone hit the free throw to put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

Butler head coach Todd Lickliter pointed out his team has recovered from their first loss of the season (to Indiana State 72-64 on Dec. 9). “[They] came in very focused, withstood some runs and persevered. There’s a lot to be said for guys who are unselfish.”

A.J. Graves, who was poked in the eye during the Indiana State game, came back to score 25 points against the Boilermakers. His points total included four three-pointers and 8-of-14 overall from the field. In addition, Graves came up with three steals against Purdue.

“I’m fine,” Graves said “I had troubles obviously, [last] Saturday night and Sunday. It just took me time to get it back, but it’s fine now. I just go out there and play the game and try to do the best I can for the team.”

While they were out-rebounded by the Boilermakers, the Bulldogs took advantage of Purdue’s 19 errors to score 23 points. The miscues were costly, Boilermakers’ coach Matt Painter agreed.

“That gives them four or five extra possessions, and that’s very critical in a one-possession game,” Painter said.

Jags looking for ‘complete game’

For the second time in three years, the IUPUI men’s basketball team will play at Conseco Fieldhouse. But this time their opponent won’t be a Mid-Continent Conference rival (the Jaguars faced Valparaiso at Conseco in 2004); it will be the Indiana University Hoosiers. And it’s a game that coach Ron Hunter and his Jaguars are definitely looking forward to.

“This is a great opportunity for us,” Hunter said. “IU is one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball and Kelvin [Sampson] is going to do a tremendous job down there. We want to show the people throughout Indiana that we’re a pretty good program too.”

A look at their cumulative statistics shows IUPUI (5-5) ahead of their opponents in most categories, except for field goal percentage (.423 vs. .466) and assists (128-154). But Hunter said that his team is still in search of “a complete game.”

“We have yet to put a complete game together, but I think we’re getting closer. We keep improving and playing better. The injury to George [Hill] was devastating, but at the same time, I think we’re going to come away as a better basketball team.”

Hunter, who became IUPUI’s all-time wins leader (196, surpassing Bob Lovell’s 195) with the 66-59 victory over Indiana Wesleyan Dec. 9, added that “It’s hard to replace 20 [points] and six [rebounds] on a mid-major level. [George] is our best player, our go-to guy. We’re really going to be good when he gets back, but we’ve found out some things about our team since he’s been out.

“We’ve got some kids who have really stepped up their play in his absence,” Hunter added. “David [Barlow] has been an absolute warrior and [Jon] Avery has really shown us some things on the inside. We challenged [Barlow] early in the season, and to his credit, he’s responded. [Dave] has really become the leader of our team and stepped up his game.”

Currently, Barlow leads the team with a 15.3 points-per-game average, and Avery, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Mansfield, Ohio, has shot 63 percent from the field, and continues to improve his inside game. Senior Angelo Smith leads the team with a 5.9 rebounds-per-game average, and 17 blocked shots for the season.

For the Jags, the contest at Conseco Fieldhouse will be a “road” game, with a predominantly IU crowd in attendance. But coach Hunter feels his squad will be up to the challenge.

“While we’re excited to be playing on a big stage, we’re still going to be focused on playing basketball,” Hunter said. “We’ve played there before, but obviously this is going to be a different atmosphere. I don’t think it’s the toughest environment we’ll play in though — we’ve played at Illinois and we played at Ohio State. We’re looking at it as just another game.”


WHAT: Next home game: Bulldogs vs. Evansville Purple Aces

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 22, tipoff at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Hinkle Fieldhouse

TICKETS: Conseco Fieldhouse box office or Ticketmaster, 317-239-5151 or www.ticketmaster.com 

WH0: IUPUI vs. Indiana University

WHEN: Friday, Dec. 22, tipoff at 8 p.m.

WHERE: Conseco Fieldhouse

TICKETS: Conseco Fieldhouse box office or Ticketmaster, 317-239-5151 or