March 9, 2009
Complete Release in PDF Format
Setting the scene
• The 2009 Speedway Horizon League Men's Basketball Championship game features a rematch of last year's title game as #1-seed - and 22nd-ranked (March 2 poll) - Butler (26-4) plays host to #3-seed Cleveland State (24-10) at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.
• Butler is trying to become the Horizon League's first repeat champion since Milwaukee in 2005 and `06 ... Cleveland State has never won a League title since joining the League for the 1994-95 season.
• If Butler wins, it would be the Bulldogs' sixth title, which would tie them with former member Xavier for the most championships in League history ... Milwaukee and Evansville are next with three apiece.
• The #1 seed has won the last four League championships on its home court (Milwaukee 2005-06, Wright State 2007, Butler 2008) ... the last non-#1 seed to claim the title was UIC in 2004 at Milwaukee.
• Cleveland State has become the first #3 seed to reach the championship game since Detroit in 2005 ... the last four title games have matched the #1 and #2 seeds.
• The championship game features three of the League's five first-team All-League performers in Butler's Matt Howard (Player of the Year) and Gordon Hayward (Newcomer of the Year) and Cleveland State's J'Nathan Bullock ... plus, the Coach of the Year in BU's Brad Stevens and Defensive Player of the Year in CSU's Cedric Jackson.
How they got here
• #1 Butler - received double-bye to semifinals and earned hosting rights as the regular-season champion and #1 seed, def. #4 Wright State 62-57 in semifinals
• Matt Howard had a game-high 24 points and was 14-of-15 from the free-throw line, including the clinching two tosses with five seconds remaining.
• The League's #1 seed has advanced to the championship game every year since the format began giving the top two seeds double-byes to the semifinals in 2003.
• #3 Cleveland State - def. #10 Detroit 56-43 in first round, def. #7 UIC 67-64 in second round, def. #3 Green Bay 73-67 in semifinals.
• Behind 23 points from Norris Cole, the Vikings overcame a 12-point first-half deficit and took the lead for good midway through the second.
• Cleveland State is the first League team since #8-seed Wright State in 1995 - and only the second ever - to win three games to reach the championship tilt.
Cleveland State-Butler series notes
• Butler leads the all-time series 24-6 and has won eight of the last nine meetings
• Back on Dec. 4, the Bulldogs defeated Cleveland State 50-48 on sophomore G Zach Hahn's three-pointer as time expired at the Wolstein Center.
• Hahn's game-winning three was selected as ESPN SportsCenter's "Play of the Day."
• The Vikings were up by eight points with six minutes remaining before Butler rallied.
• Willie Veasley led Butler with a mere nine points ... Gordon Hayward had eight points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.
• Less than a week-and-a-half ago on Feb. 28, Butler clinched the outright League regular-season title with a 58-56 victory over Cleveland State at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
• Ronald Nored's putback with 53 seconds remaining gave Butler the lead for good.
• An 80-foot heave at the buzzer by Cleveland State's Norris Cole was well short.
• Veasley led Butler with a career-high 16 points ... Cole netted a game-high 17 for CSU.
• Cleveland State's only victory in the last nine match-ups was a 56-52 win over then-#12 Butler (16-1 entering the game) at the Wolstein Center on Jan. 17, 2008.
Recapping the 2008 championship game
• League Player of the Year and tournament MVP Mike Green scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead top-seed Butler to a 70-55 victory over #2-seed Cleveland State in the championship game at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
• Butler blew a 14-point lead in the first half, but pulled away with a 17-3 run in the second after the Vikings had cut it to 43-41.
• CSU starting PG Cedric Jackson missed most of that Butler run with an ankle injury
• J'Nathan Bullock led Cleveland State with 21 points and nine rebounds.