Late in the Mad Ants’ 92-91 loss to the Maine Red Claws on Friday night, a fan in section 120 at Memorial Coliseum yelled toward Fort Wayne coach Conner Henry, Hey, Conner, you won’t win if your team doesn’t make the easy baskets.
Henry, who is in his first season as the Mad Ants coach, turned to the fan and nodded in affirmation. For the season, the Mad Ants are shooting 41.5 percent, which ranks 14th among the D-League’s 17 teams.
The Mad Ants didn’t make any of the easy ones early Friday – they missed nine of their first 10 shots – and not enough of them at the end of the game in falling to 0-3.
Today, they play host to the Erie BayHawks (0-2) at the Coliseum.
We’ll see where we made our mistakes and we’re just going to get better, said Fort Wayne’s Olek Czyz, who made 5 of 18 shots for 14 points, second on the team only to Ron Howard’s 27.
But no one really shot well Friday – even Howard was 7 of 16 from the field but 13 of 14 from the free-throw line – and the Mad Ants shot 35.6 percent as a team.
We didn’t start off too good. We didn’t shoot the ball very well, said Czyz, whose team was down 19 in the first half.
We didn’t play defensively as well as we could to begin with, but down the stretch we started to play with energy and get stops.
It was the big stop the Mad Ants didn’t make that left them winless. After Anthony Harris put the Mad Ants up 91-90 with a jump shot with 1.7 seconds remaining, Maine executed a perfect inbounds play – an alley-oop from Corey Allmond to Chris Wright – that won it.
Fort Wayne was unable to get a shot off before the buzzer to answer.
I know we’ve got a group of guys that all know each other and like each other. The locker room is good, Henry said. I talked to them about playing smarter for longer periods of time, like in the second half when we got multiple defensive stops in a row. And then we got good offensive shots. It was heartbreaking, though.
Heading into Saturday night, Howard was fifth in the league in scoring with 24 points per game. Erie’s Mustafa Shakur was 13th with 21.5 per game.
But the Mad Ants’ shooting has to get better – they shot 50.6 in the season-opening 100-99 loss at Texas on Nov. 22, then shot 38.6 percent in a 106-99 loss at Texas the next night.
They’ll get a chance to start going in the other direction today.