Lincoln's struggling offense showed flashes of breaking through on Saturday, but the scoring droughts, coupled with turnovers, continued to creep up at the worst times.
Three-minute stretches at the end of the first half and early in the fourth led to the Alices' demise, as Castle used runs of 12 and nine points to create plenty of separation in a 56-42 Southern Indiana Athletic Conference game at Alice Arena.
Ethan Bushey put up game highs of 14 points and seven rebounds to pace Lincoln (1-7, 0-3 SIAC), while Julius Hardiman scored 10 and Payton Curry had nine points and three steals, which all led to points. Eight Knights (3-3, 1-0) scored at least four points, with Isaiah Swope tallying 11 of his 13 in the second half, and Bob Nunge and reserve Jackson Mitchell each scoring 11.
Lincoln had an 18-17 lead in the second period when it went the final 3 ½ minutes without a bucket. Mitchell had nine of his points in Castle's closing spurt to take a 29-18 halftime advantage. The Alices followed up a big third quarter with the first hoop of the fourth to close within 41-37, but a 9-0 run over the next three-plus minutes ended Lincoln's threat.
Turnovers and Castle's offensive rebounds hurt the Alices.
“We made some improvements. We played a lot better, but there are still some glaring areas we need to fix,” Lincoln coach Jordan Myers said. “We gave up way too many offensive rebounds, which led to second shots for them, and it was our turnovers again. We didn't have a ton, but it's the time and location when they happen that we have to clean up.”
The biggest swing was right before the half. With a 24-18 lead, Castle seemed content to hold for the final shot with under a minute left, but a Lincoln foul with 35 seconds to go sent Mitchell to the line, and he drained both. On the ensuing inbounds, the Knights' pressure forced E Smith to step on the sideline. They again opted to hold for the final shot, and Swope's penetration freed up Nunge for a wide open corner 3 at the horn.
Still, Lincoln gave itself a chance with one of its best offensive quarters of the season.
Castle opened the third with an easy bucket, but the Alices scored the next six to get within seven. Swope stopped the run with a 3-pointer, but Smith provided an answer with his own trifecta. Curry scored six in the stanza, and the gap was 41-35. The Alices shot 7-of-9 in the quarter and committed just one turnover, which didn't come until the final possession.
But after Bushey scored on a putback to cut it to four with 7:02 left, the Alices didn't score until there were under four minutes to go. Curry hit 1-of-2 free throws with 3:26 showing to get within 50-40, but Lincoln managed just one more field goal and didn't get closer.
“In the third quarter we played well, and then you look up in the fourth, and we're only down four,” Myers said. “We've shown that if we do our jobs and execute the way we need to, we're going to keep ourselves in the game. The defense hasn't been a problem. We did a great job on Swope and Nunge. They got some good looks, but they're good players, and they're going to find good looks. The offense is getting more comfortable. If we shore up our rebounds and don't have those timely turnovers, we'd have had a chance to win it, and we still almost did.
“I saw some good things, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
A three-point play by Bushey gave Lincoln its biggest lead, 12-6, with 2:18 left in the opening quarter, and it was 12-10 after one. The Knights contained Bushey after halftime, limiting him to five points.
The JV Alices (0-5) fell, 50-29. Zach Steffey led with 12 points.
Lincoln is at Evansville Mater Dei at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19.
CASTLE 56, LINCOLN 42
Nunge (f) 4-8 1-1 11, Simmons (f) 2-4 0-0 5, Z. Niehaus (g) 2-9 0-0 4, C. Niehaus (g) 2-3 0-0 4, Swope (g) 5-9 2-3 13, Moore 2-2 0-0 4, Mitchell 4-6 2-2 11, Aigner 1-1 2-2 4, Watson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-42 7-8 56.
E. Bushey (f) 5-10 3-5 14, Hardiman (f) 4-5 0-0 10, Curry (g) 4-8 1-2 9, N. Bushey (g) 2-6 0-0 4, Smith (g) 1-4 0-1 3, Tolliver 1-2 0-0 2, Pfoff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 17-35 4-8 42.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Castle |10-19-12-15 — 56
Lincoln |12-6-17-7 — 42
3-pointers: Castle 5-18 (Nunge 2-5, Mitchell 1-2, Swope 1-3, Simmons 1-3, Z.Niehaus 0-5), Lincoln 4-15 (Hardiman 2-2, E.Bushey 1-3, Smith 1-3, Curry 0-2, N.Bushey 0-4, Tolliver 0-1). Rebounds: Castle 18 (C.Niehaus 5), Lincoln 18 (E.Bushey 7). Turnovers: Castle 10, Lincoln 16. Fouls: Castle 14, Lincoln 14. JV: Castle 50-29.