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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants guard Rob Gray steals the ball from Knicks' forward Isaiah Hicks in the second quarter at Memorial Coliseum on Thursday.  

Thursday, December 13, 2018 11:00 pm

Defense big worry for Ants

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants fell 131-105 tonight to the Westchester Knicks and it was, to say the least, an ugly loss in front of an announced crowd of 1,597 at Memorial Coliseum.

The inability to score can be explained, in my opinion, since the Mad Ants were without Edmond Sumner and Alize Johnson. Sumner has a hamstring injury and Johnson is expected to rejoin the Mad Ants for Monday’s game at the Coliseum against Rio Grande Valley, after they play Saturday at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Also, some of the Mad Ants’ remaining offensive weapons are either streaky, such as Rob Gray, or haven’t yet found a niche, such as Omari Johnson.

Again, this is explainable.

But the defensive problems, whoa, those have to be fixed.

Not having Alize Johnson hurts because he’s a force in the paint. But teams such as Westchester have exploited the inside weaknesses of Fort Wayne. John Jenkins had 26 points. Trevon Bluiett had 23 points.

Fort Wayne’s Ike Anigbogu, who was OK offensively with 20 points (half of which came in the first quarter) has to become more dominant at this level (he only had six rebounds and no shot blocks). 

Other teams, on other nights, have figured out ways to exploit Fort Wayne’s perimeter defense.

Coach Steve Gansey just seemed befuddled.

“We have a very young team and being patient is big for us – for myself and the players – but one thing we have to do is continue to play for each other,” Gansey said. “I was disappointed in our energy and our effort.

“Playing hard is a skill. Some people may think, ‘Oh, that’s not a skill,’ but playing hard is a skill because not everyone does it. Everyone needs to have that demeanor every single day. You never know who is watching. I questioned our energy, our effort, our heart and our toughness today.”

The Knicks (13-5) shot a jaw-dropping 62.1 percent from the field, compared to Fort Wayne’s 41.2-percent clip. The Knicks had more rebounds (44-35) and more steals (9-4).

The Mad Ants (6-7) got only two victories during their six-game home stand and haven’t won back-to-back games since they were 3-1.

“There are plenty of games,” said Fort Wayne’s Omari Johnson, who had 18 points. “Sometimes you’re going to have bad games. Sometimes you’re going to have throwaway games. Sometimes there are games like this and there’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve just got to bounce back in the next game. We’ve got to keep doing the things we’ve been doing to get these wins and it will all work out in the end.”

jcohn@jg.net