Pacers talent helps Mad Ants top Erie
Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey would, selfishly, like this roster of players to stick around for a bit. Fans of the Mad Ants, who witnessed the 116-111 home-opening victory over the Erie BayHawks at Memorial Coliseum, would probably agree.
Don’t hold your breath. The Mad Ants’ lineup may have been full of talent, but much of it was Indiana Pacers talent.
Ben Moore, who may have been the best of the Fort Wayne lot Friday with 22 points on 7-of-9 shooting and seven rebounds, isn’t one of them. The Pacers released him last week.
“I think the biggest thing was (we were) playing together,” said Moore, who rejoined the Mad Ants after he was a standout rookie for them last season. “I think we showed a little bit of how young we are toward the end of the game, but it’s something to build on. I feel like we stayed together and played really scrappy. That’s the big thing. Even with the mistakes, we were getting back on defense.”
The Mad Ants’ lineup included two players on full NBA contracts : Alize Johnson, a rookie second-round pick who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Ike Anigbogu, who had 12 points and 13 rebounds : plus Edmond Sumner and Davon Reed, both on two-way contracts.
Sumner had 22 points with four assists. Reed had 18 points to follow up his team-leading 25-point effort in Fort Wayne’s season-opening 112-101 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce on Nov. 2.
“There are a lot of great players in the G League and I feel like we don’t get enough credit,” Moore said. “There are a lot of great players, a lot of NBA prospects, a lot of guys who bring different stuff to the table. I feel like it shows almost every night.”
It took the Mad Ants a bit to jell in front of an announced crowd of 3,953 : they trailed by 12 points in the first quarter : but maybe that was to be expected since Moore, Johnson and Sumner had only a couple days of practice this week.
“That’s one of the reasons why the Pacers and the Mad Ants have the same philosophies in everything, offensively and defensively,” Gansey said. “It should be an easy transition for those guys when they are assigned and playing for us.”
Erie (2-1) took a 28-16 lead on a Jeremy Hollowell finger roll. But the Mad Ants got within one on a Reed 3-pointer with 7:16 left in the second quarter and, on the ensuing possession, Sumner circumvented defense in the lane to drop in a layup for a 43-42 lead.
Sumner’s drive from the arc gave Fort Wayne a 60-55 lead with 32 seconds left in the half. And the Mad Ants took control with an 8-3 run to begin the third quarter : it included a Reed steal at mid-court and then a 3 : to take a 71-59 lead.
Johnson had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting in the third quarter for Fort Wayne (1-1) to take a 90-77 lead, and Anigbogu’s tip-in with 2:30 left in the fourth cemented things at 108-98.
The Pacers’ playing time meant sacrifices for Stephan Hicks and Omari Johnson, who had four and two points, respectively.
“With these guys that are assigned, the rest of our roster has to understand that some nights they may play and some nights they may not play,” Gansey said. “But that’s the relationship that we have. There are 27 other teams in the same situation. I’m just glad that those (Pacers) guys got a lot of reps and a lot of minutes and that we won the game.”