Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward Jarrod Uthoff looks to make a pass as he’s defended by Derick Newton of the Windy City Bulls on Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette The Mad Ants' DeQuan Jones, right, guards the Windy City Bulls' Derick Newton on Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
Justin A. Cohn | The Journal Gazette Mad Ants forward Jarrod Uthoff, right, posts up the Windy City Bulls' Antonion Blakeney at Memorial Coliseum, while referee Greg Dandridge, left, monitors the play Friday night.
Saturday, January 06, 2018 1:00 am
Mad Ants 114 Windy City 108
Lemon, Uthoff pace Mad Ants to 2nd consecutive win
JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette
The Mad Ants had all week to think about how they would sustain their Dec. 30 victory and try to get their first back-to-back victories in a month. What they came up with was improving their conditioning and getting back to playing at the frenetic pace that saw them win 10 of their first 12 games.
They executed that game plan. And it worked, as they ran the bigger, slower Windy City Bulls up and down the Memorial Coliseum court, en route to a 114-108 victory in front of an announced crowd of 2,335 fans Friday night.
“The last couple days of practice, we've really been working on conditioning and running more. We really wanted to take that into this game,” said Walt Lemon Jr., who had 30 points, eight rebounds and seven assists for the Mad Ants (13-10), on the heels of the 118-117 victory over the Grand Rapids Drive at the Coliseum.
“We had a couple days off, and we wanted to make sure we were being aggressive at both ends and just pushing the tempo.”
Lemon did the heavy lifting late in the game – he had 14 of Fort Wayne's 27 points in the fourth quarter, when he made 5 of 7 shots – and Jarrod Uthoff did much of the early damage to finish with 29 points and eight rebounds.
Uthoff was also important late in the game, blocking a Cristiano Felicio attempt with 1:02 left, then making a hook shot at the other end for a 108-106 Fort Wayne lead. On the ensuing possession, Lemon stripped Felicio and went the length of the court for a layup and a four-point lead.
“(Coach Steve) Gansey made conditioning our focus, getting up and down, and it paid off because at the end of the game I don't think guys were getting tired,” said Lemon, whose Mad Ants play host to the Lakeland Magic at 5 p.m. Sunday. “Our guys didn't look tired, and we got the stops that we needed. We've just got to learn from this one and keep building a winning streak.”
Windy City (8-13) was paced by Antonio Blakeney's 35 points. Felicio, who made 8 of 22 shots, totaled 18 points and 15 rebounds.
“Guys have been really working the last three days in practice, after getting a little bit of time off for New Year's,” Gansey said. “We've been continuing to work on our conditioning. I'd felt we'd lost it a little bit. And Windy City is a really tough team, and they're a division opponent, and I'm really happy with the outcome.”
The Mad Ants had a 15-point lead, after Lemon went the length of the court for a layup to make it 45-30 with 5:01 remaining in the second quarter. But it quickly evaporated and the Mad Ants needed a Lemon basket, following by an Ike Anigbogu block of a Derick Newton shot, to go into halftime with a 51-50 lead.
In a back-and-forth third quarter, the most noteworthy play saw Fort Wayne's Trey McKinney Jones intercept a Jarell Eddie pass and trot unabated for a basket and a 75-71 lead.
With Uthoff and McKinney Jones in foul trouble, the Mad Ants found contributions from other sources, including Anigbogu, the Indiana Pacers rookie center, who had four points, 11 rebounds and a game-best four shot blocks.
“These guys have to stay ready,” Gansey said. “In practice, you wouldn't think there's one guy better than the other. They just battle and push each other.
“You don't know how the outcome is going to go throughout the game, and you've just got to be ready to come in.”