For the eighth time in their nine games this season, the Mad Ants lost.
The difference this time was they had a substantial lead – 18 points – but let it slip away in a 108-105 loss to the Texas Legends at Memorial Coliseum.
For the Mad Ants (1-8), Naz Mitrou-Long had 15 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds, Walt Lemon Jr. had 28 points off the bench, and Brian Bowen II added 21 points and 10 rebounds.
Stephan Hicks added 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Mitrou-Long had missed the Mad Ants’ previous five games, three because he was with the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and two with an illness. Fort Wayne’s JaKeenan Gant sat out a third straight game with a concussion. Travin Thibodeaux was also out for undisclosed reasons.
Among the Legends’ players was former Purdue player Dakota Mathias from Elida, Ohio. He played last season in Spain.
This season, he came in averaging 19.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.9 steals in eight games.
His off-balance 3-pointer with Mitrou-Long in his face put the Legends (6-3) up 106-103 with 11 seconds left. He finished with 23 points.
An announced crowd of 2,288 was on hand for Grateful Dead night.
The Mad Ants went through their first eight games this season without building a lead of more than 10 points – and their only victory was a 121-113 over the Windy City Bulls on Sunday at the Coliseum – but things were different early in this one.
Mitrou-Long had seven points, five rebounds and four assists as the Mad Ants opened a 26-13 lead, and that included a sequence in which he grabbed the rebound of a missed Stephan Hicks 3-pointer and set up Ike Nwamu for a 3 from almost the same spot with 2:11 remaining in the first quarter.
The Mad Ants made 11 of their first 23 shots, while the Legends made only 4 of their first 17.
Hicks’ 3-pointer with 11:26 remaining in the second quarter opened the lead to 31-16. Bowen’s jump shot from just inside the arc made it 44-26 with 5:20 left in the quarter.
The Mad Ant’ lead, once 18 points, was down to six at 56-50 when Texas’ Nate Mason made a 3 from the corner.
A C.J. Wilcox 3-pointer, a second after he was blocked by Mathias, put Fort Wayne up 63-53 with 7:02 remaining in the third quarter, but a Mason 3 quickly cut the lead to four points
A wild play on which Mitrou-Long was looking for Bowen on an alley-oop saw the ball carom off Bowen’s hands, then the glass and go in. Bowen was also fouled on the play, converted the 3-point play and the Mad Ants were ahead 69-66 with 3:58 left in the quarter.
The Legends took the lead at 71-70 on a Mathias 3 from the corner with 2:58 left.
A Bowen 3-pointer with 7:01 left in the fourth quarter put Fort Wayne up 91-90. And Bowen’s pull-up jumper made it 93-92.
But the Legends quickly recovered and Mathias’ 3-pointer made it 103-99 with 1:40 left. Lemon tied it at 103 with two free throws with 1:11 left.
The Mad Ants play host to the defending-champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers 7 p.m. Monday at the Coliseum.