NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Chase Casteel admitted he'd been in a bit of shooting funk going into a home Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference battle against Rose-Hulman Saturday, Jan. 7.
Following a late afternoon in which he brought a crowd of more than 500 happy Manchester University fans to their feet often, Casteel's struggles dissipated. The Monrovia, Ind., native canned eight three-point baskets, among a group of 13 successfully treys the Spartans hit, as part of a 24-point, six-rebound effort. He wound up as one of four home team players in the double-digit scoring column as part of an 85-68 win.
"I've been a little out of rhythm … maybe thinking too much lately all the way around," he noted. "Because of that, my shooting had been bugging me, so I went in and got a little extra work with assistant coach (Mason) Wood this week, and today it felt a lot better."
"I think the reason for our recent strong stretch of play is because guys are putting extra work in after practice, and we've got some young guys who are pushing the older players and vice versa, too," he added. "It all comes down to getting in the gym, working towards some more confidence and then playing as a team and being able to win some games and have some fun."
Senior guard Tyler Alexander (Indianapolis, Ind.) was next in line due to being a force inside the paint with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. Freshman guard Erik Bell (Evansville, Ind.) ran the point nearly to perfection with nine assists and 12 points, while fellow freshman guard Tyler Billups (Connersville, Ind.) came off the bench to add 13 points.
Despite the glowing offensive numbers of the Black and Gold, it was the visiting Fightin' Engineers were the ones on fire from the field early. After surrendering eight of the game's first 11 points, the visitors went on a 28-10 run to lead 31-18 with less than six and a half minutes to go in the first half. MU responded, at that point, reeling off 10 straight points to cut the deficit to 31-28 and kept their guests within range until regaining the advantage for good at the 16:18 mark of the second half.
"I think the games after Christmas got us going," Coach Gerad Good pointed to as to the important areas that helped his team go 2-0 during the week. "Some of the guys got their legs back then. They understand now what we're trying to do, too, and there's a better buy in. The whole thing is about trust, and we're seeing that."
"It's just good to win," he added. "We needed (the outcomes against Franklin and Rose-Hulman) so the guys know the work they're putting in pays off. We're winning as a team, too, which is the right way to do it."
The Spartans (3-9 overall, 2-4 HCAC) take their two-game league and overall win string on the road for back-to-back league tests at Bluffton University Wednesday, Jan. 14, and Transylvania University Saturday, Jan. 17.