The Mad Ants looked to be in better position than any other time this season, leading by 20 points in the third quarter Thursday.
Things went awry quickly.
The Santa Cruz Warriors erupted late, taking their first lead midway through the fourth quarter and going up for good when former NBA star Jeremy Lin drained a 3-pointer with 1:34 remaining and won 113-109 in Orlando, Florida.
The Warriors were led by Jordan Poole’s 37 points – the most scored by a player so far in this truncated G League season. Lin totaled 27 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds. Kaleb Wesson had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Warriors (3-3).
“We have to stay solid at the end,” said Jalen Lecque, who led the Mad Ants (1-5) with 21 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. “But credit to those (Santa Cruz) guys. They were hitting shots. Golden State is a really good shooting team in the NBA, so I knew their G League team was going to follow the same procedure and shoot a lot of 3s. We did a really good job in the first half … but they picked up confidence and took it away.”
Santa Cruz made 15 of 40 from 3-point range – Poole was 4 of 9 and Lin was 4 of 8 – and Fort Wayne was 8 of 28.
Fort Wayne’s Oshae Brissett had 20 points and 12 rebounds. Devin Robinson had 15 points. Josh Gray added 12 points and 8 assists.
Amida Brimah made his long-awaited Fort Wayne debut – he missed last season with an ACL injury and the first five games of this season because of issues with his immigration work visa – and the 6-foot-10 center had 12 points, 10 rebounds and two shot blocks.
“It was great to have Amida with us,” first-year Mad Ants coach Tom Hankins said. “It’s a little more depth in the middle as rim protection. He gave us a boost of energy and we shot the ball well. We probably played our best half of basketball, since I’ve been here, in the first half, so hopefully that’s something we can build on.”
Fort Wayne’s Brian Bowen II had 12 points and 5 rebounds. Cassius Stanley, who had missed the previous five games, was still hampered by a foot injury and totaled three points in 17 points.
The Mad Ants opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take a 65-51 lead on a Lecque layup with 9:29 remaining in the third quarter. A Brissett free throw propelled the lead to 79-59 with 5:14 left. But the Warriors closed the quarter with a 21-6 run to get within five.
“That’s on me,” Hankins said. “We’ve got plenty of timeouts. I just kept thinking we’d break out of the fog that we were in and we never did. That’s totally, completely, on me. I’ve just got to do a better job there of using those timeouts to stop the momentum and get it turned around.”
The Mad Ants, who have nine games left in the regular season, face Iowa at 11 a.m. Saturday in Orlando.