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The Journal Gazette

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Ike Anigbogu of the Mad Ants steals a rebound from Paul Watson of the Westchester Knicks during the 2nd quarter.

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Alex Poythress of the Mad Ants drives in for a quick two points against Jordan Henriquez of the Westchester Knicks.

  • Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Alex Poythress of the Mad Ants blocks Isaiah Hicks of the Westchester Knicks in the 2nd quarter.

Saturday, December 02, 2017 10:50 pm

Epic battle: Winning vs. development

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

This is a night when you can’t help but realize that winning takes a back seat to development. And in a city like Fort Wayne, that doesn’t always fly. Just ask a certain other sports team that occupies this building.

Let’s not hit the panic button, the Mad Ants have still lost only one of their last nine games, but the dynamic was changed before the 107-94 loss tonight to the Westchester Knicks, even if Alex Poythress and Ike Anigbogu only had a couple days of practice this week.

Now, they have to rebuild that chemistry after there were some head-scratching things in tonight’s game …

-- Walt Lemon Jr., who has in the opinion of many, if not most, people been the best player in the entire G League, was held to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting. He had one assist. This after he came into the night ranked second in the league with 26.6 points per game and sixth with 6.4 assists per game. For the first time, he wasn’t the focal point of the offense.

-- Ben Moore, a rookie, was coming off a monstrous game in which he had 28 points in 41 minutes. Tonight, he played only 20:41 and took only three shots for six points.

-- Poythress was what we’ve come to expect with 21 points, though he had only two rebounds. Jarrod Uthoff had 10 points and 14 rebounds. “It felt good to finally get some playing time and finally get some run,” said Poythress, who had played only 19 minutes with the Pacers. “I felt like I was a little rusty. I felt like, overall, it was pretty good for me. We didn’t get the end result that we wanted. We played a little sluggish, but we’ve got to just build on it for Monday.”

-- Anigbogu has had a dismal plus/minus rating in two of his three G League games. Tonight, he was minus-11 to go with his eight points on 3-of-9 shooting and 10 rebounds.

-- The chemistry just wasn’t there, right coach Steve Gansey? “I didn’t think we were playing team basketball today. Two Ss come to my mind – selfish and sulking – and that’s what we were doing. We weren’t playing for each other,” he said.

-- The Mad Ants (8-2) just didn’t seem like they particularly cared about getting their ninth straight victory, which would have been a new franchise regular-season record. I’m not going to argue that’s a particularly meaningful record, but for a team that is trying to get butts in the seats, well, any record is meaningful and the players should have known that.

-- Westchester (8-4) is good, but also a team that should be a decent matchup for the Mad Ants, yet they were posterizing Fort Wayne. That defense we’ve been talking about all season? Yeah, I didn’t see that out there tonight, though it’s worth mentioning Anigbogu had three shot blocks and DeQuan Jones had three steals. “We weren’t talking tonight. We weren’t picking each other up. We weren’t playing Mad Ants basketball,” Gansey said. “Additions (to the lineup), we’ve got to figure it out and keep playing for each other and keep sharing that ball. I thought we were very stagnant. They punked us a little bit. They were talking trash and we kind of laid down to them.”

jcohn@jg.net