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The Journal Gazette

  • Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' Travis Leslie, left, guards former Fort Wayne player Ramon Harris, now with the Grand Rapids Drive, at Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016 7:43 pm

Kudos to Mad Ants, all the Mad Ants

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

Few things are as cliché as calling a game a “total team effort.” But the Mad Ants’ 121-106 victory tonight over the Grand Rapids Drive was as close as you’ll get to it being exactly the case.

Ten players got into the game and Jordan Loyd led the charge with 27 points, the most of his rookie season out of the University of Indianapolis. That was particularly notable because he was going against Detroit Pistons prospect Ray McCallum, who had 15 points. Loyd owned the third quarter with 15 points, as Fort Wayne went on a 34-19 run.

"Jordan, he’s a rookie but he’s not playing like a rookie. … He’s been doing this all year. To go against the No. 1 prospect in the D-League in (Detroit Pistons prospect) Ray McCallum, I thought Jordan played pretty well,” said Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey, whose team is 12-4 and dropped the Drive to 8-10.

(Video of Loyd's night are above.)

It wasn’t just that the Mad Ants got 21 points from Travis Leslie and 18 from Trey McKinney Jones, it was that so many players got major minutes: Nick Zeisloft had 17 points in 26:43; Christian Watford got 11 in 16:52; E. Victor Nickerson had 3 in 23:07; and Adam Woodbury played the first 6:32 of his professional career after sitting out since training camp with a back injury.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can step up,” Watford said. “It was just one of those games where everybody got it going and we shared the basketball. We played together tonight.”

Some storylines addressed after the game:

-- Leslie, who amazingly is the only Mad Ants player the D-League ranks among their top 25 prospects, hadn’t been scoring like he did early in the season. Without Julyan Stone (concussion), the Mad Ants went to him early and often. He was lauded most for his 14 rebounds, the most of anyone in the game, and seven assists.

-- There have been plenty of nights in which Watford, the former Indiana University player, has played little or not at all. Gansey said it’s sometimes difficult to find the right match-ups to make it work, especially since Watford is a center for the Mad Ants at times. I also talked to Watford about it. He said it’s been frustrating but it comes with being a professional and he’s just glad the team is winning.

-- If Woodbury can play, he’d be just what the Mad Ants might need to put them over the top. They are undersized. He is 7-foot-1 with some shooting range. But they will have to be mindful of that back injury. It was preexisting but got aggravated during training camp.

-- Everybody raves about Nickerson as being a guy who can play. We saw it tonight. He only had three points, but he did some good defensive things and helps the offense. The Mad Ants outscored Grand Rapids by 11 with him on the court.

-- A rare off game for Alex Poythress, who had eight points, 12 below his average. But the Mad Ants needed to prove they could win without him scoring and they did. And he still had nine rebounds and a team-best two blocked shots.

-- Interesting seeing former Mad Ant guard Ramon Harris playing for Grand Rapids. There was even a moment of tension in which Gansey told him, "Stop fouling," and Harris responded: "Shut up, Gansey." Heat of the moment, I tell ya. Zeisloft was 4 of 7 from 3-point range. He really could be the next Harris here, a popular player who stays for a while, if he wants to anyway. By the way, Harris played 34:50 and made only 1 of 8 shots for four points.

jcohn@jg.net