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Mad Ants’ versatility gives boost to offense

– The Mad Ants like driving to the basket – just watch D-League slam dunk champion Tony Mitchell go for the hoop – but they are just as apt to kick the ball out for a long-range shot.

It’s all part of their offense, which relies heavily on a screen and then the decision: Go for the basket, dish it off or look back for someone beyond the arc.

“Really, a lot of our offense begins with some type of step-up screen,” said Mad Ants coach Conner Henry, whose team was 22-14 heading into Saturday night’s game against Iowa (21-12) at Memorial Coliseum.

“We can throw back to a shooter like … Ramon Harris and then he can then shoot it or swing it, and then we get pretty good action from that swing. We can attack teams off the closeout and try to create shots that way.”

The Mad Ants strive to have a multifaceted offense, and it’s been led by Ron Howard, who was averaging 20.9 points before Saturday. Mitchell was averaging 19.3 and Trey McKinney-Jones 15.7.

The Mad Ants had never been more than six games above .500 before this season and, too often, the offense was overly reliant on Howard.

That has changed with the offseason acquisition of McKinney-Jones, a rookie, and the recent addition of Matt Bouldin, who was averaging 11.8 points before Saturday.

“It helps us to limit Ron’s minutes on his legs. We can slot him in at the two-guard and we can go small. Having Matt is a luxury for us,” Henry said.

The Mad Ants must be deft shooters of the plan to work. And even though they had won 16 of their last 23 games, they still needed some work in that area.

With a team field-goal percentage of 44 percent, they ranked 15th out of the D-League’s 17 teams.

Mad Ants opponents were shooting 47.1 percent against them.

The Mad Ants had focused more on their 3-point shooting, though it took a hit when Brian Butch left for the Philippines last week. They were 5 of 25 from 3-point range in Friday’s 112-102 win at Erie, Pa.

“We have a good core group of guys who have been here since the beginning and we keep adding good pieces to the mix,” forward Sadiel Rojas said. “They can shoot, but all of us can shoot, and we’re doing a good job of sharing the ball to make it happen.”

The Mad Ants added to their team Saturday, acquiring center Tim Ohlbrecht from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers for a first-round draft pick.

The 6-foot-11 Ohlbrecht was a D-League All-Star in 2013 and averaged 12.4 points and 7.1 rebounds in 32 games.

jcohn@jg.net

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