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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Stephan Hicks of the Mad Ants will look to fix some recent deficiencies during an eight-game road trip that begins today in Maine.

Saturday, January 07, 2017 10:01 pm

Mad Ants embark on crucial road trip

Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants have taken care of business, for the most part, at Memorial Coliseum. Now, they will have to do the same thing on the road with a grueling string of eight straight road games.

"One thing is, we’ve got to come together even more," said coach Steve Gansey, whose Central Division-leading Mad Ants (13-6) play at 1 p.m. today in Portland, Maine, against the Atlantic Division-leading Maine Red Claws (14-7).

"A lot of teams, when they go on long road stretches, they either get better or they get worse. We’ve got to come together with our mindset being that this is a business trip. We need to pull together and get these wins on the road because they’re just as important as the ones at home."

The Mad Ants, 9-4 at the Coliseum and 4-2 on the road, have been up and down lately and won only two of their last five games, including a 114-100 loss to Raptors 905 on Friday night.

Not only was ­Georges Niang called back to the NBA’s Indiana Pacers late Friday, but the Mad Ants released second-year center Anthony Walker on Saturday.

Niang has averaged 17.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in four D-League games as a rookie. Walker had only played in three games this season, averaging 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds.

The Mad Ants may be without Travis Leslie today, too, as he’s recovering from a hamstring injury, but their roster currently stands at 10.

While Fort Wayne has really shown its depth in recent games, with rookies Adam Woodbury and E. Victor Nickerson getting their most significant action of the season, Gansey has been frustrated with the team’s habit of playing gradually worse as games go on instead of having a killer instinct.

On Friday, the Mad Ants squandered a 13-point second-quarter lead. Even though they made a late comeback to get within six points, the 19-point hole they had put themselves in during the fourth quarter was too large for them to recover.

Rookie Alex Poythress leads the Mad Ants in scoring (18.4 points per game), Leslie leads them in rebounding (7.6) and Julyan Stone has the lead in assists (8.8). Lately, the dynamic has shifted a bit.

Over the last five games, Trey McKinney Jones leads in scoring with 22 points per game and Poythress is down to 13.4

The Mad Ants want to be unselfish, and say they don’t care who carries the scoring load any given night, but they want to finish off opponents better than they have been lately.

"With us, I feel like we have so many guys," McKinney Jones said. "We have 10 guys who can come in and really contribute. When those starting players get tired, we’ve got the kind of guys who can come in an really keep the momentum, but we haven’t been doing that. It’s fixable."

The Mad Ants don’t play at the Coliseum again until Feb. 2 against the Erie BayHawks.