The Journal Gazette
Saturday, November 09, 2019 1:00 am

Lakeland 117 Mad Ants 89

Coach rips Ants after season-opening loss

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Friday night was more than just disappointing for Mad Ants coach Steve Gansey.

“It's not even disappointing, it's embarrassing,” he said after the Mad Ants opened their 13th season with a 117-89 loss to the Lakeland Magic in front of 2,270 fans at Memorial Coliseum. “We have a veteran group, and I'm expecting these guys to play a lot better.

“There was no emotion out there, no fight. We cut it to 13 in the third quarter and we're not disciplined. We're not back, we're not talking and (Lakeland's J.D. Tisdale Jr.) hits a half-court shot to end that quarter. That can't happen.”

The only bright spots were Stephan Hicks, who had 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting; Ike Nwamu, who totaled 15 points and seven rebounds; and JaKeenan Gant, who had 15 points.

That wasn't nearly enough to overcome the bad, namely 22 turnovers for a Fort Wayne team that wants fewer than 12 each game, 37.8% shooting, only 12 assists, and a lack of passion on defense.

“We're not conditioned, we're not ready. I've got to do a better job of getting these guys ready for games, but it's just embarrassing to go out for our home opener and showcase like that,” Gansey said. “The good thing about this league is that you play tomorrow.”

The Mad Ants play host to the Long Island Nets at 7 p.m. today. Fans will get T-shirts for a “gold out.”

“I hope our entire group comes in with a whole different mindset and comes in ready. These teams (we play) are going to be ready. Ourselves and other teams had the same amount of time in training camp,” Gansey said.

Hasheem Thabeet, the Mad Ants' first-round pick in this year's G League draft, and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft to Memphis, didn't play. Rookie D.J. McCall didn't either.

“They were killing us up and down and I don't think (Thabeet) is ready to give us significant minutes,” Gansey said. “I wasn't going to throw him in there at the end when we were getting our butts kicked. He doesn't deserve that. He's going to continue to get ready for games and his number is going to get called.”

Lakeland (1-0), which shot 51.8% from the field, including 16 of 33 from 3-point range, was paced by B.J. Johnson's 23 points.

Josh Magette added 21, and the Magic, which totaled 27 assists, never trailed.

“I don't even know where to start,” Nwamu said. “The ball stuck a little bit too much on offense. We turned the ball over way too many times on offense, which led to easy runoffs for them and explains the score. We didn't do a good job defensively loading to the ball; we loaded too late and that gave them a lot of open 3s.”

The ballyhooed return of Walt Lemon Jr. saw him get into early foul trouble and finish with 10 points in only 18:39.

As for other key newcomers, Naz Mitrou-Long had 12 points on 3-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists with a team-worst five turnovers; Brian Bowen II had 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds; and C.J. Wilcox was scoreless in 16:47.

“It's OK. We've got another one tomorrow and we're going to bounce back and regroup,” Nwamu said. “We'll be ready to go.”

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