Mad Ants’ defense rebounds for victory
It was the Mad Ants’ best defensive performance of the season : they defeated the Windy City Bulls 98-77 on Saturday night : and it came on the heels of their worst. It was with the Mad Ants’ sixth different starting lineup of the season, and without a bevy of important players, making it that much more impressive.
“Our chemistry, our team camaraderie, is real good. And everybody gets along with everybody,” said Je’lon Hornbeak, who made the first start of his two-season professional career, taking the place of Tra-Deon Hollins (knee) and totaling six points and eight assists in 36 minutes, 15 seconds of play.
“Everybody wants to see each other do better, do good, so if it’s a different starting lineup, that doesn’t affect how we play. We want to see each other do well and that’s kind of the reason why are in the position we are in right now.”
The Mad Ants’ defense was two points shy of tying the franchise record for stinginess : it held the Canton Charge to 75 points in a 2012-13 victory : and the two defensive best performance of this season have coming against the Bulls.
A crowd of 2,232 at was at Memorial Coliseum for Indiana Pacers Night and Pacers rookie Alize Johnson got his seventh double-double with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Omari Johnson had 19 points for the Mad Ants (5-4), while Davon Reed and Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had 17 apiece. Windy City (5-9) was paced by Tre’Darius McCallum’s 26 points.
The Mad Ants’ defense had been eviscerated in Thursday’s 136-116 home loss to Raptors 905, which shot 60 percent from the field.
But Fort Wayne, which shot 43.8 percent, held Windy City to 31.2-percent shooting.
“Communication, that was No. 1; we talked how that needed to be better (after our game) against the Raptors,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said.
“Especially going against a team like Windy City, which slips a lot of screens and they set them, communication is really huge and I was really happy with how we responded defensively.”
The Mad Ants are two games into a six-game home stand that continues 7 p.m. Monday against Canton (4-6).
“Especially in pick-and-roll, understanding if a guy is slipping, we want to stay square and stay on the ball,” Gansey said. “There are a lot of a different things we’re doing and we’re not really switching, so understanding where that screen is on the floor : if it’s on the middle third or the outer third : that’s huge and just being early, loud and continuous with all our principles and all of our verbiage.”
Rob Gray’s baseline drive put Fort Wayne ahead 15-5. The lead increased to 43-27 when an Alize Johnson put-back was followed by a pair of Reed 3-pointer. Reed was 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
Elijah Stewart’s slam of a missed Stephan Hicks 3-pointer made it 72-42 with 2:57 left in the third quarter.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense because we know that’s what it takes to win games,” Hornbeak said. “That’s what we all want to do here : win and get to a better basketball position In order to do that, we all have to win. In order to win, we all have to play defense.”