Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward Jarrod Uthoff shoots over Greensboro’s Jalen Jones during Tuesday night’s home opener at Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Wayne's DeQuan Jones dribbles past Greensboro's L.G. Gill on Tuesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Wednesday, November 08, 2017 1:00 am
Mad Ants 105 Greensboro 93
Aggressive Ants stingy in home opener
Defensive effort extolled in 1st win of season
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants want stinginess to be a staple of their season and they demonstrated that defensive tenacity Tuesday in a 105-93 victory over the Greensboro Swarm in front of 4,234 fans at Memorial Coliseum for the home opener.
“We just wanted to come in and set the tone ourselves, not be in a position like the last game where we were battling back,” said DeQuan Jones, who had four of Fort Wayne's seven blocks after the Mad Ants' early 16-2 run gave them a 19-12 lead they didn't squander.
“We wanted to come out and hit them before they started hitting us. We came out with a lot more enthusiasm and more energy. That's all a credit to the coaching staff and getting us ready.”
Walter Lemon Jr. had 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting to go with seven rebounds, four assists and three of Fort Wayne's nine steals. This came on the heels of his 34-point performance in a 115-99 loss to the Long Island Nets on Saturday, when Fort Wayne trailed by 22 in the second quarter, got within two in the third quarter and sagged to the finish.
On Tuesday, though, the Mad Ants closed ably, cementing the victory with 4:44 left in the fourth quarter when Lemon intercepted a Charles Cooke pass and sprinted from center court for a layup and a 95-83 lead.
“As times goes on, we'll just get more used to playing with each other,” Lemon said. “I think the first game (of the season), the guys had butterflies in their system. But we've got the jitters out, and we came with a purpose on the defensive end, and that led to get us getting fast breaks and just got us going.”
Jarrod Uthoff had 23 points and six rebounds for Fort Wayne (1-1). Rookie Ben Moore had 19 points, nine rebounds and a second-quarter play where he dived over the scorer's table to successfully stop the ball from going out of bounds. Stephan Hicks added 16 points, C.J. Fair had 12 points and nine rebounds, and Jones totaled eight points.
“Defensively, we just executed our game plan,” Jones said. “We didn't come out stagnant where we just dug ourselves into a hole early. That makes it easier to close out games. But coach (Steve) Gansey and his staff (deserve credit), we executed and forced them off the line, forced them to beat us in the paint, and I think that contributed to our success.”
Greensboro (1-1) was paced by Marcus Paige's 18 points.
While Gansey said “there's still a lot to improve on,” namely the 21 turnovers, and there were some mistakes leaving Swarm players open for 3-pointers, he attested that the defensive intensity helped shape the game for Fort Wayne.
“We were switching a lot (on defense) and that helped us, got us to talk a little bit more and communicate. And we pulled it out,” Gansey said. “A lot of teams aren't ready for early switch attacks, so that's when we were at our most aggressive and it worked.”
The Mad Ants were without Alex Poythress, who is with the NBA's Indiana Pacers, Edmond Sumner (knee/shoulder) and Trey McKinney Jones (shoulder).