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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, December 26, 2017 10:20 pm

Mad Ants' defense porous in latest loss

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Mad Ants never held a lead in their 129-116 loss Tuesday to the Westchester Knicks. And every time they got close, they couldn’t seem to get over the hump.

That was the case when the Mad Ants (11-9) got within one, 92-91, with 9:42 left, thanks to a Stephan Hicks' dunk that was set up by Tra-Deon Hollins stealing a Billy Garrett pass, going the length of the court and then sending a no-look pass to Hicks.

The rally was over in seconds, though, and the Knicks (15-8) took a seemingly insurmountable lead when a Trey Burke 3-pointer put them up 118-107 with three minutes left.

The Mad Ants have now lost seven of their last eight games.

“We just had a lot of mental breakdowns on the defensive end. We had a lot of miscommunications on defensive coverages. That’s what led to a lot of the easy buckets,” Hicks said. “Once we get our communication and everybody on the right page, I think we’ll be fine.”

Walt Lemon Jr. and DeQuan Jones had 22 points apiece for the Mad Ants. Hicks added 20.

For the Knicks, Xavier Rathan-Mayes had 33 points, and his team overcame Fort Wayne’s 13-of-25 shooting from 3-point range and 19-of-20 shooting from the free-throw line.

“We’ve got to take away tendencies of guys and we’ve got to pay attention more,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “We have this thing called KYP – Know Your Personnel – and you’ve got to know who you’re guarding. We’re switching a lot and guys have got to know the different tendencies of players.”

An announced crowd of 1,933 attended the game at Memorial Coliseum, where the Knicks made 52.9 percent of their shots compared to the Mad Ants' 45.7 percent.

The Mad Ants take on the Erie BayHawks at 7 p.m. Thursday in Erie, Pennsylvania, then return to the Coliseum to face the Grand Rapids Drive at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Despite making 11 of their first 24 shots, the Mad Ants were outdone by the Knicks’ 13-of-24 shooting in the first quarter and trailed 32-24.

Not helping matters was the rebounding. Led by the five rebounds of former Mad Ants' Adam Woodbury, a 7-foot-1 center, the Knicks had 20 of the game’s first 30 rebounds. Westchester’s other 7-1 player, Luke Kornet, got a rebound and slammed it in for a 39-32 lead with 8:52 remaining in the second quarter.

But the Mad Ants got within one, 41-40, with 7:13 left in the second quarter, thanks to an 8-0 run that culminated with back-to-back 3-pointers from Trey McKinney Jones and Hicks. It didn’t take the Knicks long to reestablish a substantial lead, 51-42, on a Paul Watson 3-pointer from the corner with 4:45 left in the quarter. Another Watson 3 made it 60-49 with 2:21 left.

Despite going with seldom used players like rookies Hollins and Je’lon Hornbeak – the Mad Ants went with some size and speed in the third quarter – they still trailed 92-85 heading into the fourth. 

Gansey said he was looking for any unit that would bring defensive stability to the floor.

“Right now it’s to a point where everyone’s got to look in the mirror and just not accept losing. We’ve had these tough ones. And this was a tough one,” he said.

The Mad Ants didn’t have any NBA-contracted players as Alex Poythress, Ike Anigbogu and T.J. Leaf, who have combined to play 16 G League games, are with the Indiana Pacers. Edmond Sumner, a Pacers rookie out of Xavier recovering from knee surgery, has yet to make his professional debut with the Mad Ants.

The Mad Ants were outrebounded 46-38.