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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 1:00 am

Mad Ants have look of struggling team

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

One needn't necessarily see the scoreboard to know how the Mad Ants are doing.

If they are winning, there is a positive energy, an energetic pace and a never-say-die attitude that is apparent from the stands.

But if things aren't going their way – and lately they've haven't been – then the Mad Ants are playing less assuredly, hanging their heads more and not looking like the team that played dominant basketball the first month of the season.

“Body language plays a huge role in this,” said coach Steve Gansey, whose Mad Ants (11-8) have lost seven of their last eight games, the only victory coming Dec. 18, 127-124 over the Greensboro Swarm at Memorial Coliseum.

Chemistry has had something to do with the Mad Ants' problems lately as well. They are 3-7 since the NBA's Indiana Pacers began a flurry of moves, sending players to, and pulling them up from, the G League.

While they aren't on the Mad Ants' roster heading into the 7 p.m. game today at the Coliseum against the Westchester Knicks (14-8), Ike Anigbogu has played in seven games with Fort Wayne, Alex Poythress has played in six and T.J. Leaf two, and almost all of those games have come since Dec. 2.

Edmond Sumner, the Pacers' rookie out of Xavier, has yet to make his professional debut for the Mad Ants after suffering a knee injury last season.

Most of the Mad Ants' losses have been closely contested – they lost their last game, 98-94 on Saturday to Raptors 905 in Mississauga, Ontario – but Gansey wants his players to enhance their attention to detail and recapture the confidence they had earlier this season.

“If the other team scores, who cares? Just go down and execute,” he said. “That's how basketball is – a game of runs. It's tough to stop a team's runs. You've got to call timeouts and do different things, switch up and make adjustments. But I think our body language needs to improve and we need a next-play mentality.”

Walt Lemon Jr. continues to shine for the Mad Ants, ranking fourth in the league with 23.6 points per game along with 6.6 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals.

Jarrod Uthoff is averaging 18.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists. DeQuan Jones, who is averaging 13 points, has stepped up his play lately, while the return of Trey McKinney Jones from offseason shoulder surgery has helped matters, too.

“It's just the small things, whether it's knowing our defensive game plan or certain (opposing) players, or our own offense and (after-timeout plays) correctly,” Lemon said. “It's the small things we've got to do a better job of getting done to get over the hump.”

If the Mad Ants do that, their body language will improve. But they need that positive energy to get there. It's a vicious circle.

“You've just got to learn from your mistakes and move on to the next game,” Lemon said.

jcohn@jg.net