The Fort Report: Mad Ants Off to Fast Start
The Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers' G League affiliate, have started the season strong, winning three of their first four contests. In their third year under head coach Steve Gansey, the 2017-18 roster features a mix of familiar faces and new blood, but they've meshed well so far, putting the Mad Ants in second place in the Central Division, just a half-game back of the first-place Grand Rapids Drive (Detroit's affiliate).
The Mad Ants dropped their season opener at the Long Island Nets (Brooklyn's affiliate) on Nov. 4, 115-99, despite a game-high 34 points from Walter Lemon Jr. The guard, who played with the Mad Ants in the 2015-16 season, went 13-for-28 from the field and also dished out six assists.
Jarrod Uthoff, a Pacers training camp invitee, added 17 points and nine rebounds in the loss.
Fort Wayne found its way into the win column three days later with a 105-96 victory over the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte's affiliate) in its home opener. Lemon Jr. again led all scorers with 25 points (on 10-of-18 shooting) while also tallying seven rebounds and four assists. Uthoff also had a standout performance with 23 points (on 9-of-13 shooting), five rebounds, and four assists.
Rookie forward Ben Moore, another Pacers training camp participant, chipped in 18 points and eight rebounds in the victory. Stephan Hicks, a guard in his third season with the Mad Ants, chipped in 18 points and six boards.
The Mad Ants swept a two-game homestand with an emphatic 104-77 win over defending G League champions Raptors 905 (Toronto's affiliate) on Friday night. Lemon Jr. continued his hot start to the season with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
Je'Lon Hornbeak, a 6-3 guard who made the Mad Ants after attending an open tryout this fall, added 18 points off the bench. Hicks chipped in 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting, while Uthoff recorded the team's first double-double of the season with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The next night, the Mad Ants picked up a dramatic road win over the Windy City Bulls (Chicago's affiliate).
Fort Wayne trailed by two with under 30 seconds to play before Moore converted a three-point play to give the visitors a one-point lead. Hicks came up with a steal on the other end and Moore knocked down both of his free throws to stretch the margin to three. Windy City scored on a putback layup with 2.9 seconds remaining, but two free throws from Lemon Jr. shortly thereafter sealed a 114-111 win for the Mad Ants.
Lemon Jr. and Uthoff shared top scoring honors with 24 points apiece. Lemon Jr. (10 assists), Moore (18 points and 12 rebounds), and Hicks (15 points and 15 boards) all recorded double-doubles in the victory. Uthoff narrowly missed out on joining them, finishing with nine rebounds.
As of Tuesday morning, Lemon Jr. is tied for fourth in the G League in scoring at 26.0 points per game. Moore is tied for 16th in rebounding with 9.3 boards per contest.
The Mad Ants' success has come without either of the two players who have two-way contracts with the Pacers. Rookie guard Edmond Sumner remains out while he continues to rehab from left knee surgery, while injuries to other players have forced the Pacers to keep second-year forward Alex Poythress with the NBA team for the time being.
The Mad Ants have a light week and don't return to action until Saturday, Nov. 18, when they will host the Delaware 87ers at 7:00 PM, the start of a four-game homestand.
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.