FORT WAYNE – It’s hard to believe, but in Ron Howard’s star-studded career with the Mad Ants – he is the fifth all-time leading scorer in D-League history – he had never done what he did Friday.
That’s score 36 points, which he did in a 130-116 victory over the Iowa Energy, in front of 2,334 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
I’m just glad we got the win. We needed that, said Howard, who was 11 of 15 from the field and 14 of 15 from the free-throw line. We gave the last two games away, we feel like, after putting ourselves in good positions to win. To beat a team like Iowa, that’s a good thing for us.
The Mad Ants (7-7) coughed up a 16-point first-quarter lead, trailed by five in the third quarter, then took it to the Energy (10-5) in the fourth.
Peyton Siva, who is on assignment from the NBA’s Detroit Pistons, had 27 points, 10 assists and eight steals. The Indiana Pacers’ Solomon Hill, who returns to the NBA today, had 15 points. The Pistons’ Tony Mitchell had 14 points and nine rebounds. And Trey McKinney-Jones also had 14.
It feels good, man, said Howard, whose previous high of 33 came in his rookie season of 2007-08. We were flying down the court. It feels good when you’ve got Peyton flying down the court making shots, Trey making shots, Tony and Solomon doing it too. It makes it easier for us all. It opens the floor up and the other team doesn’t know what to do. It makes the game so much easier for us.
Iowa, which was led by Othyus Jeffers’ 26 points, whittled the early deficit down gradually and took its first lead, at 78-77, on a Jarvis Varnado jump shot with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter.
The teams went back and forth until there was 5:16 remaining in the game, when Chris Porter had a putback for a 109-108 lead. Then came a Howard jumper and a Siva 3-pointer, plus a foul, for a 115-108 lead with 4:03 left.
A very, very important win for us, Mad Ants coach Conner Henry said. I was telling the guys that I think we’ll look back on this win over the course of the season and realize that it was important.
Before the game, the Mad Ants re-signed Darnell Lazare, a 6-foot-8 forward, who played for the team from 2010 to 2012. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in 2010-11 and 15.5 points and 7 rebounds in 2011-12, when he was a D-League all-star. He played last season in Australia. He didn’t play Friday.
According to Mad Ants president Jeff Potter, Fort Wayne will make at least one more addition before their next game, Monday, against Santa Cruz in the D-League Showcase in Reno, Nev., which is an annual chance for players to impress NBA scouts at the same venue.
The new player will be guard Jamaal Franklin, a rookie with the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, who was a second-round pick out of San Diego State and has averaged 1.9 points in 14 games.
The Mad Ants also hope to have another Tony Mitchell, who was the D-League’s Rookie of the Year last season with Fort Wayne, but that’s pending clearance from FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, because he began the season in China.
I knew Ron had a bunch but I didn’t realize he had that many (points), Henry said. There were a lot of good things from this game, and a lot of good things from the stats. We have been searching for a little bit of our identity, and in the second half I think we started to find it.