FORT WAYNE – Now that the Mad Ants’ first-ever playoff win is out of the way, they can concentrate on their first ever series win.
Having won the opening game of their best-of-three first-round D-League series 97-96 at Reno, Nev., on Friday, the Mad Ants play host to the Bighorns 7 p.m. today at Memorial Coliseum.
Game 3, if it’s necessary, would be Tuesday at the Coliseum.
We needed this one, Reno guard Walker Russell Jr. said, after the Bighorns squandered a 13-point lead in Game 1. It’s going to be tough to go there and get two.
Russell would know, after spending the past six seasons with the veteran-laden Mad Ants, who got swept by Santa Cruz last year in their only previous playoff series.
This season, the Mad Ants won the regular-season title, and the Bighorns came in as the eighth seed.
(Game 1) has got to be a learning lesson for us. We have to have short memories, Walker said. We’re not afraid to go there and play those guys. We showed we can play with them.
The Mad Ants were led by Matt Bouldin’s 20 points on a night of spotty shooting; they were 43 percent from the field, while the Bighorns were 46.6 percent.
Fort Wayne’s Ron Howard had 19 points. Tony Mitchell, who did the bulk of the heavy lifting early, was 7 of 24 from the field and finished with 17 points.
They’re really talented, really capable, Bouldin said of the Bighorns. They can beat anybody in this league. So we’ve just got to take it to them.
The Mad Ants were 34-16 in the regular season, including 19-6 at the Coliseum, and they have won 13 straight at home. The Bighorns, who were 27-23 in the regular season, were 12-13 on the road and lost four of their last six.
The only regular-season meeting between the teams was at the Coliseum on Dec. 26 and Fort Wayne won 114-89.
It’s going to be a hostile crowd, said Mo Charlo, who led Reno with 22 points in Game 1. We have to be ready to go down there and take their first punch and just be consistent down there. We have no choice, our backs (are) against the wall.
The Bighorns played Game 1 without their starting point guard, Sundiata Gaines, who has missed five of the last six with an undisclosed injury. He could return tonight.
Jim Krajewski of the Reno Gazette-Journal contributed to this story.