Mad Ants want to stretch winning streak to nine

Walt Lemon Jr. has helped the Mad Ants to a franchise record-tying eight game winning streak by averaging 26.6 points per game. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)

While the Fort Wayne Mad Ants were practicing Friday morning, every player was focused and listening to the coaches.

Good things happen on teams that are on eight-game winning streaks, and we might have just gotten significantly better. The Mad Ants will try to break their franchise record for consecutive wins Saturday night at home against Westchester, and Fort Wayne is adding Ike-Anigbogu, Tre McKinney-Jones and Alex Poythress to the lineup. Anigbogu and Poythress are down from the Pacers, and McKinny-Jones is coming off injured reserve from a shoulder injury.

As coach Steve Gansey said, they Mad Ants are even more dangerous now.

“There is now a plethora of talent and no one can guarantee their minutes and their role and their starting spot,” General Manager Brian Levy said. “Now, almost all over again, everyone has to fight for their role on this team and know that nothing is guaranteed for anyone. That’s the way everyone has to approach it now.”

And it’s not like anyone has been struggling. The Mad Ants are one of two teams (Santa Cruz being the other) to rank in the NBA G-League top 10 in points, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. They are doing a lot of things right.

“We have guys who can start on a lot of different teams who are coming off the bench,” Gansey said. “Guys need to sacrifice minutes and shots and adding three guys, two NBA players and a guy who is a proven scorer in this league, it’s tough. We have a lot of bullets right now, and we have to keep pushing each other and keep this going. The only way we should lose is if we beat ourselves.”

The Mad Ants are also 6-0 at home so far. Following Monday’s home game against Reno and Fort Wayne’s Reggie Hearn, the Mad Ants will go on the road for four consecutive games.

If anything, Gansey is preaching to his players that they face even more pressure now because of the winning streak.

“It’s extremely difficult in this league to win eight games in a row,” he said. “Our mindset is like when the Warriors are coming to do. You’d be stupid if you didn’t think teams were circling us right now. There’s no need for us to be comfortable right now.”

Point guard Walt Lemon Jr. ranks fourth in the league at 26.6 points per game, and Jarrod Uthoff is 19th at 21.3. CJ Fair averages 15.8 points, Stephan Hicks 13.2, DeQuan Jones 12.7, Anigbogu 12.0 and Ben Moore 11.9. As a team, the Mad Ants are shooting 48.7 percent from the field.

On Friday afternoon, Lemon was named the NBA G League Player of the Month for November after averaging 26.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 2.7 steals in 41.5 minutes per contest through the season’s first nine games.

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