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Rookie gets Ants over top

December 21, 2016 GMT

Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey heaped praise upon Nick Zeisloft after the rookie from Indiana University cemented a 111-110 come-from-behind victory on a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left Tuesday night against the Greensboro Swarm.

“That’s extremely difficult to do, for any player, is sit on the bench and get your name called and go in there and make a game-winning 3. Kudos to him,” Gansey said.

But Zeisloft, who has family ties to nearby Auburn, is a shooter’s shooter. Even though he played only 12 minutes and scored nine points, he proclaimed his fresh-off-the-bench basket, after an in-bounds pass from Julyan Stone in front of 1,367 fans at Memorial Coliseum, was something he can be counted upon to convert in the future.

“It’s not easy but it’s not as hard as he’s making it sound,” said Zeisloft, who made 3 of 7 shots – all of them from 3-point range – and had some wayward ones in a 1-for-4 first half that saw the Mad Ants (10-3) trail by as many as 17 points.

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“I think that’s how all of us play and that’s a confidence thing we have about us. We just go out there and play the next play, whether the shot goes in or not, whether the other team hits a shot or not,” he said.

Rookie Alex Poythress kept up his torrid pace with 32 points – that ties his own mark for most points by a Mad Ant this season – and he leads Fort Wayne in scoring (20.2) and rebounding (7.5) per game. Trey McKinney Jones had 18 points. Rakeem Christmas had 13 points and 10 rebounds on assignment from the Indiana Pacers.

Julyan Stone had six points and 11 assists, then was part of a post-game shouting match between the two teams that began with Stone rolling the ball down the court and a Swarm assistant coach chucking it back at him.

The Mad Ants’ rally from a 68-51 halftime deficit was impressive because they scored 22 of the third-quarter’s first 31 points and held 6-foot-11 Charlotte Hornets prospect Christian Wood scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in the second half. Wood had 28 points on 11-of-13 shooting in the first half.

Using a trap and guarding the pick and roll better, Fort Wayne forced Greensboro into eight second-half turnovers and solved the Wood problem. Aaron Harrison, another Charlotte prospect, still had 24 points for the expansion Swarm (5-11).

After going up 93-92 on a 25-foot Poythress shot with 9:53 left, the Mad Ants fell behind by five before their final rally. Zeisloft’s winner was set up by a Stephan Hicks defensive rebound with 10 seconds left. Gansey was able to use the D-League’s advancement rule to set up an in-bounds pass in the offensive end, and Zeisloft eluded veteran Damien Wilkins to hit a shot that had been designed to be inside the arc.

“It was kind of a broken play. We didn’t have it. Nick flashed, … came right over, faked it, (Wilkins) went by and there was one dribble and that’s what Nick does,” Gansey said. “He makes big shots and he’s ready.”

jcohn@jg.net