Fort Wayne Mad Ants guard Gary Talton didn't realize what a great look he had for his would-be game-winning shot.The Ants were in a real bind thanks to a late foul call. They had no timeouts. The ball was advanced to the front court with 1.3 seconds left.
Talton took the in-bounds pass from Ramon Harris, juked Maine Red Claws defender Rodney McGruder and let his shot fly.
“I thought it was good,” Talton said, as he watched a video replay of the last shot. “That's about as good a look as I could get with one second left. I almost wish I wouldn't have seen that now.”Talton's shot bounced off, and the Red Claws escaped with the referee-aided 87-86 win over the Mad Ants on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum.
A crowd of 2,789 included many Indiana University fans eager to see former Hoosiers Will Sheehey of the Mad Ants and Christian Watford of the Red Claws square off. Watford hit some threes, Sheehey threw down a monster one-handed dunk, and both signed autographs for a long line afterward.
But the ending of the game between first-place teams was a memorable, if irritating, one for the Mad Ants.
“It's a frustrating game to lose, especially when you lose like that,” Talton said. “You feel like you should have won the game. The refs called that call and you have to live with it. But it's definitely frustrating.”
The Mad Ants had taken an 86-85 lead on a spin-move layup by Talton with 12.2 seconds.
On the subsequent possession, Maine's play broke down as Mad Ants forward Chris Porter knocked the ball away. But it squirted back out to Maine's Rodney McGruder, who put up a desperation shot. A foul was called on Fort Wayne's C.J. Fair stretching to contest the shot.
Mad Ants coach Conner Henry challenged the call, which is a new rule in the NBA Development League this season. The challenge was overruled. McGruder hit both free throws with 1.3 seconds on the clock.
“I didn't think it was a foul; he sold it for the ref,” Fair said. “He had not chance of making that shot and he's falling as he's shooting it. But it's tough. It's tough for a referee to make that type of call that late.
“At the end of the day, they called the foul so I have to live with that, knowing I was part of us losing.”
The Mad Ants' record slipped to 20-13 with the loss while Maine improved to 21-10. Fort Wayne remains a game ahead of Sioux Falls in the Central Division, and plays next at Grand Rapids on Friday.
Watford impressed the IU fans early, hitting his first four three-point shots in the opening quarter. He cooled off after that, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. Maine's Tim Frazier, another Big Ten product from Penn State, turned in a triple double: 10 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists.
The Mad Ants fell behind early, but dug their way back into the game and into the lead with strong play by the usual playmakers. Andre Emmett, in his first game since winning the D-League All-Star MVP award, scored 31 points with eight rebounds and three assists. Talton scored 15 with nine assists. Fair scored 10 off the bench.
Late in the game, Porter – the team's oldest player at 36 – brought the biggest boost of energy, taking charges from Watford and Tim Frazier, blocking Watford's shot and tipping in a Talton miss.
“I sometimes make the mistake of not playing him,” Henry said of Porter. “Maybe I should play him 37 minutes a night and see where we're at. Maybe we'll get there. He sure does a good job every time he's in there.”
Henry was pleased with his team's play, although frustrated by the game hinging on a late call.
“Coach emphasized to take it and turn the page,” Emmett said. “That's what we have to do. This one sucked a little bit, but we'll bounce back and turn the page and get better in areas we weren't so hot at tonight.”
Sheehey and Watford both returned to the court after the game and signed autographs for a line that reached into the hundreds.
The fact that Watford played for the visiting team made it even more unique.
“Everywhere you go, you've got Hoosier fans,” Watford said. “It's always fun to play in front of them.”
Sheehey and Watford didn't guard each other during the game, however.
“It's really fun,” Sheehey said. “I've been looking forward to it. I have a couple friends in the D-League, a couple Big Ten guys, and it's just a really good feeling to come out and play against guys you know and recognize.”
For more on the Mad Ants, follow Reggie Hayes on Twitter at reggiehayes1
MAINE 87, MAD ANTS 86
Maine 28 19 24 16 – 87
Fort Wayne 22 22 25 17 – 86
Maine: Babb 3-6 1-1 8, Osby 8-17 4-5 22, Watford 7-15 0-0 18, Frazier 5-12 0-0 10, Stringer 0-2 3-3 3, Calliste 1-5 0-0 2, Johnson 5-11 2-2 14, McGruder 4-8 2-4 10, Sampson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 33-79 12-15 87.
Fort Wayne: Emmett 13-25 4-4 31, Harris 2-7 0-2 5, Frisby 2-6 0-0 4, Sheehey 3-6 2-2 8, Talton 6-16 2-3 15, Hyman 1-1 0-0 2, Thames 1-5 0-0 3, Fair 4-10 2-2 10, Hall 1-4 0-0 2, Porter 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 36-84 10-13 86.
Three-point goals: M/9-30 (Babb 1-3, Osby 2-4, Watford 4-6, Frazier 0-4, Stringer 0-2, Calliste 0-3, Johnson 2-6, McGruder 0-1, Sampson 0-1), FW/4-22 (Emmett 1-4, Harris 1-5, Sheehey 0-1, Talton 1-7, Thames 1-2, Fair 0-3). Rebounds: M/48 (Frazier 13), FW/42 (Fair 9, Emmett 8). Assists: M/20 (Frazier 13), FW/18 (Talton 9). Steals: M/6, FW/10. Blocks: M/0, FW/2. Turnovers: M/19, FW/11. Fouls: M/16, FW/17. Attendance: 2,789.