Mad Ants play poorly in front of Pacers’ boss

December 4, 2018 GMT

A wasted opportunity, that’s how the Mad Ants viewed Monday night’s 96-81 loss to the Canton Charge : for, oh, so many reasons.

They had two double-doubles: Alize Johnson’s 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Ike Anigbogu’s 14 points and 13 rebounds in his first game back from the Indiana Pacers. Johnson was recalled by Pacers right after the game.

They had the Pacers’ general manager, Chad Buchanan, watching from the Memorial Coliseum stands, a night before the Mad Ants were to travel to Indianapolis to practice in front of the NBA coaches and staff.

And this was the third of six games in a homestand that could allow Fort Wayne (5-5), which has a Central Division-best winning percentage of .500, to gain a foothold. But the Mad Ants have lost two of three and haven’t won back-to-back games since the season was four games old.

“Division opponents, these are huge games for us,” Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey said. “The fact that we are home (so much) this December, we need to take advantage of that full force and we did not do that tonight.”

His team was coming off its finest defensive performance of the season : a 98-77 victory Saturday over the Windy City Bulls : but never gained any traction in front of 1,327 fans. Canton forced more turnovers (24-18) and got way more points off turnovers (23-6).

“Chad Buchanan was here tonight and that was a lost opportunity,” Gansey said. “You never know who’s watching in this league. It’s on TV. It’s online. It’s everywhere. You can’t waste an opportunity like that.”

Johnson had seven double-doubles in nine G League games, not including a 20-point, nine-rebound debut. Edmond Sumner, who has appeared in six Pacers games with five points, one assist and one steal in just over 24 minutes this season, is expected to rejoin the Mad Ants this week.

The Mad Ants were without starting point guard Tra-Deon Hollins (knee) for a second game Monday : Je’lon Hornbeak again started : and it’s unknown if Hollins could be back for Friday’s 7 p.m. game at the Coliseum against the Long Island Nets (7-3).

Canton (5-6) came in with much upheaval after the parent Cleveland Cavaliers waived Andrew Harrison and Billy Preston, who had been on two-way contracts, and replaced them with two-ways for Jalen Jones and Jaron Blossomgame. Jones was with the Cavaliers on Monday, and Blossomgame, who had already been with the Charge, went on to score 11 points. Kobi Simmons scored 18 points, and JaCorey Williams added 16.

Stephan Hicks, who had 15 points for the Mad Ants, said the onus is on the veterans to lead the rookie-laden team.

“It starts with the older guys, the guys who have been playing around the longest.” Hicks said. “We’ve got to show everyone that we have to bring it every game if we want to be a good team. We’ve got to show it. We can’t play a good game here and then play a terrible game the next one. We’ve got to string it together, if we want to be great.”