The fans who showed up at Memorial Coliseum today for the Mad Ants’ game got a surprise – Alize Johnson had been assigned to Fort Wayne by the NBA’s Indiana Pacers for the first time this season.
And Johnson, the 6-foot-7 forward, delivered as he usually does.
He had a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, giving him a whopping 24 double-doubles in 32 games with Fort Wayne over his first two professional seasons.
His presence couldn’t have come sooner for the Mad Ants, who got their first victory of the season – 121-113 over the Windy City Bulls – in front of an announced crowd of 1,731.
In a back-and-forth game, Johnson hit a pair of free throws, a layup and then a scoop in the lane for Fort Wayne to break open a tied game and take a 110-104 lead with 1:12 remaining.
Fort Wayne (1-6) got 28 points and eight assists from Walt Lemon Jr.
C.J. Wilcox added 24 points, tying a franchise record with 8 3-pointers in the game. Omari Johnson and Corey Allmond also accomplished the feat.
Windy City (4-3) was paced by Max Strus' 22 points.
Last season, Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, averaged 19.2 points, 13.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over 31 G League games. In five games this season with the Pacers, Johnson has averaged 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds and 6.3 minutes.
The Pacers also reassigned Naz Mitrou-Long to the Mad Ants, but he was unable to play due to illness. JaKeenan Gant was also unable to play because of a concussion.
Mitrou-Long averaged 22 points, 6.7 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.3 steals in three games with Fort Wayne before he was called up and played in three NBA games.
The Mad Ants got off to arguably their best start of the season with a 12-2 game-opening run that included back-to-back 3-pointers by C.J. Wilcox and Stephan Hicks. But the Bulls quickly got back within one when Justin Simon’s 3-pointer made it 16-15.
Travin Thibodeaux’s dunk with 1 second left in the quarter put the Mad Ants up 22-19.
A Simon-to-P.J. Dozier alley-up with 6:02 left in the second quarter kept the Bulls within one at 31-30. And the Mad Ants led 52-48 at halftime, thanks to a Walt Lemon Jr. 3-pointer with 1 second left.
The Bulls took a 58-57 lead on a Strus drive with 9:06 remaining in the third quarter.
Back-to-back Johnson drives put Fort Wayne up 92-84 with 9:04 left in the fourth quarter, but it was quickly back down to one at 92-91.
A Simon dunk – off another alley-oop – put the Bulls up 99-98 with 4:40 left, and the play was set up by a Milton Doyle block of an Ike Nwamu shot at the other end.