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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette
    Mad Ants forwards Stephan Hicks, middle left, and Tyler Hansbrough, middle right, tip the ball in Saturday at Memorial Coliseum as Roscoe Smith, far left and Terrence Jennings look on for the Delaware 87ers.
March 18, 2017 10:37 PM

Hansbrough has been terrific for Ants

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

I would not be at all surprised if Tyler Hansbrough gets called up to an NBA team soon. In fact, I’d be surprised if he isn’t.

Yes, he's been that good.

Tonight, he had 31 points, the most of his eight games in the D-League, and he had a game-best 16 rebounds, as the Mad Ants defeated the Delaware 87ers 116-109 at Memorial Coliseum.

Alex Poythress added 23 points as Fort Wayne led for all but 19 seconds in front of 4,744 spectators, including Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird.

“He’s an NBA veteran and his play speaks for itself,” said Gansey. “Guys see that, see how hard he plays, and it definitely rubs off. He won our previous game on the West Coast swing with a steal and he had a big-time and-one there tonight, and he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing for us.”

The only lead the 87ers had was at 88-87, thanks to a shot by three-time NBA dunk champion Nate Robinson, but Hansbrough answered that with a turnaround jumper. (Video highlights of Hansbrough's game are above.)

The Mad Ants claim they aren’t paying attention to the standings, but the victory today was huge for them because it kept them in the race for the Eastern Conference’s third seed and gave them a strong hold on at least the fourth and final one. Fort Wayne, which has six games left in the regular season, is 26-18 and trailing Canton (28-18) while trying to stay ahead of Delaware (23-21).

The Mad Ants now hold the tiebreaker with Delaware, thanks to a 3-1 record in the season series. A key facet of this game was the Mad Ants’ ability to answer big shots in the fourth quarter with big shots of their own.

“We watch a lot of film on executing on the offensive end. We needed to take advantage of (the 87ers) playing last night (in Newark, Delaware) and traveling and having to get up early,” Gansey said. “We wanted to run, run, run. I don’t think we got out to the pace that we wanted to, but we definitely executed down the stretch and made shots.”

Should Hansbrough get called up, the Mad Ants would probably be desperate to get Jarrod Uthoff back from the Dallas Mavericks, since he brings that same sort of grit in the paint, but he’s reportedly going to be in the NBA for at least another 10 days. Regardless, it’s important for the Mad Ants to rack up as many victories as possible, starting with Sunday’s game at the Coliseum against the Austin Spurs, who won 112-108 on Friday night in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, against the Windy City Bulls.