The Fort Report: Mad Ants with Dramatic Road Win
Uthoff Lifts Fort Wayne to Win in Erie, Mad Ants Still in Second Place
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers' D-League affiliate, returned to action after the All-Star break last week. Fort Wayne went 1-2 on the week, falling to the Westchester Knicks and Rio Grande Valley Vipers before pulling off a dramatic road win over the Erie BayHawks.
With 15 games remaining in the regular season, the Mad Ants are 20-15. That record is the third-best in the Eastern Conference and places Fort Wayne in second place in the Central division. The top four teams in each conference (including both division winners) make the playoffs.
The Mad Ants' week began last Wednesday at Westchester, the Knicks' D-League affiliate. With All-Star big man Alex Poythress out due to a hand injury that also sidelined him from the All-Star festivities in New Orleans, Fort Wayne fell, 113-105.
Ben Bentil led six Mad Ants in double figures with 25 points and nine rebounds. Stephan Hicks added 21 points and eight boards. Jordan Loyd, a rookie guard out of UIndy, had 18 points and six assists off the bench.
The Mad Ants returned home on Friday to host Rio Grande Valley, the Rockets' affiliate. The Vipers came away with a 125-115 win, behind 28 points from Darius Morris and a monster performance (27 points and 20 rebounds) by Chinanu Onuaku.
Jarrod Uthoff led Fort Wayne with 23 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Trey McKinney-Jones added 20 points and Bentil scored 19. Poythress had 17 points and six boards in 19 minutes before exiting the game due to another injury late in the third quarter.
The Mad Ants closed the week on a positive note, gutting out a 110-108 win at Erie, the Magic's affiliate. Uthoff played the role of hero, making several clutch plays in the final minute.
Erie took a 106-105 lead on T.J. Price's jumper with 38.4 seconds remaining. Loyd missed a shot on the other end, but McKinney-Jones secured the offensive rebound and Uthoff knocked down a go-ahead 3-pointer with 10.6 seconds to play.
Kalin Lucas' jumper tied the game with 2.5 seconds left. Out of a timeout, the Mad Ants inbounded to Uthoff on the right baseline, who rose up for a jumper. He missed, but drew a foul in the process and then proceeded to knock down both free throws to seal the victory.
Uthoff recorded his second double-double in as many games, finishing with a game-high 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Hicks added 24 points, while Travis Leslie (17 points) and Loyd (15 points) both scored in double figures off the bench. Point guard Julyan Stone scored just six points, but also tallied nine rebounds, 16 assists, and four steals.
Bentil left the team prior to Saturday's game to sign a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks.
Despite his recent injuries, Poythress remains among the league leaders in several statistical categories. The rookie out of Kentucky is tied for 16th in scoring (18.4 points per game) and 10th in blocks (1.6 per contest). Stone was second in the D-League in assists at 8.7 per game before leaving the Mad Ants this week to play in Italy.
The Mad Ants have three more games this week. They visit the Grand Rapids Drive on Wednesday, host Westchester on Friday, and then play at the Canton Charge on Saturday. All three games are scheduled for 7:00 PM ET.
Stay tuned to Pacers.com for continued updates on the Mad Ants, and make sure to check out Pacers.com/MadAntsTV » to watch Mad Ants games free online.