Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette DeQuan Jones of the Mad Ants prepares to drive around the Reno Bighorns' Brandon Austin at Memorial Coliseum on Monday night.
Tuesday, December 05, 2017 1:00 am
Mad Ants 106 Reno 97
Mad Ants keep ball moving to get win
Use 27 assists to get back on track after win streak snapped
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants want to be selfless. They certainly were that Monday night.
They totaled a season-high 27 assists in defeating the Reno Bighorns 106-97 for their ninth victory in 10 games.
It was a decisive response to Saturday's 107-94 loss to the Westchester Knicks that snapped the Mad Ants' winning streak at a regular-season record-tying eight games, and Monday was a return to team basketball led by the prowess of Walt Lemon Jr.
Lemon totaled 28 points – his fourth-highest total of the season – on 12-of-20 shooting with 10 rebounds and a team-high eight assists, after his season-low nine points Saturday had brought his scoring average down to a fourth-ranked 24.8 points per game.
“It was us moving the ball more on offense and then attacking. We shot 21 free throws, and we want to shoot more, but we were attacking and we were getting layups off of it,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said.
“Walt needs to stay aggressive if we're going to win. He attacked gaps and we just pulled it off. We played 10 times better than we did in the last showing against Westchester.”
The loss to Westchester had come just after the NBA's Indiana Pacers had sent Alex Poythress and Ike Anigbogu to Fort Wayne, and with Trey McKinney Jones making his return from offseason shoulder surgery. On Monday, Poythress had nine points and 11 rebounds, McKinney Jones had 13 points and four assists, and Anigbogu had two points and two rebounds.
Teammate Jarrod Uthoff totaled 16 points on 8-of-16 shooting with 14 rebounds and four blocks. Ben Moore added 15 points for Fort Wayne, which is 7-1 at the Coliseum.
“The biggest thing was just moving the ball. That was our biggest problem the last game,” McKinney Jones said. “We had 27 assists and that was the biggest thing for us, getting out there and playing for each other. It was very stagnant, and there was a lot of one-on-one in the last game. With three new guys (in the lineup), I was expecting a learning curve, just because we hadn't played with each other, but I didn't expect to lose obviously. We were able to come back tonight and get the win.”
Reno (4-6) was paced by Justin Jackson's 24 points, as the Mad Ants honored police and firefighters on First Responder Night in front of a crowd announced at 2,143. The Bighorns were without Snider graduate Reggie Hearn, who has averaged 17.7 points in three games this season, because of an ankle injury.
Lemon's back-to-back dunk and layup got the Mad Ants off to a strong start and an 8-2 lead, and Uthoff had 10 points and six rebounds en route to a 24-20 advantage.
The Bighorns went up 38-35 on Jackson's 3-pointer with 4:38 left in the second quarter, but Fort Wayne quickly responded and went up 45-40 when a Uthoff fall-away was followed by a Poythress dunk and a Lemon 3 from the corner.
DeQuan Jones' sprint through the lane for a highlight-reel dunk put the Mad Ants up 72-55 with 6:20 left in the third quarter, and Fair drained a pair of free throws for an 84-67 lead.
Lemon's block of a Matt Jones shot with three minutes left in the game preserved a 100-85 lead for the Mad Ants, who play at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Westchester, New York.