FORT WAYNE — In an all-too-familiar scene, the Mad Ants lost Thursday night.
This time it was to the Iowa Energy, which defeated Fort Wayne 104-101 in front of 1,955 fans at Memorial Coliseum. Iowa was led by Othyus Jeffers’ 28 points.
Coach Conner Henry, who is 1-4 in his first season as Fort Wayne coach, laid out the reasons for the Mad Ants’ latest loss:
•Ron Howard, who had a team-high 24 points, can’t be forced into taking 30 shots, as he did Thursday, making 10 of them to go with seven assists.
•The Mad Ants must clean up their play late in games; down one point with 13.7 seconds remaining, an Anthony Harris pass sailed out of bounds, and down three points on the next possession, Bennie Lewis got called for traveling.
•Missing rookie Trey McKinney-Jones, who suffered a back injury after scoring 30 points in the 114-110 overtime loss at Sioux Falls, S.D., on Saturday didn’t help matters.
“I was expecting more improvement today,” Henry said. “Once again, these moral victories of being close but not quite getting there, it’s old and tiresome. We had 30 more offensive possessions than our opponent tonight and we just didn’t make shots or capitalize on specific opportunities.”
There was some good news for the Mad Ants, who got center Chris Hunter back in the lineup after he missed two years because of two Achilles injuries. He had 10 points and five rebounds in 15:19.
The Mad Ants also got 18 points from Ramon Harris, who was 4 of 9 from 3-point range, while Sadiel Rojas had 15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Harris had back-to-back 3-pointers, surrounding a stop in which Rojas took a charge, to put the Mad Ants up 92-89 with 5:29 remaining.
The lead was short-lived; free throws by Jeffers and Chris Allen regained the lead for the Energy (5-2). Iowa’s Kalin Lucas had 21 points. Patrick Christopher added 16.
Henry likes what his defense has been doing – Fort Wayne had 12 steals, while Iowa had six – but the offense has to be more balanced Saturday against Idaho at the Coliseum.
“It’s too much work on (Howard),” Henry said. “Rarely if you take 30 shots do you have a great night. We’ve got to get better at the offensive end, no question. Defense, we make significant stops throughout the game. … Just as a group, we’ve got to get better at the offensive end.”
Chris Porter had 10 points for the Mad Ants.
“We’re not getting frustrated,” Porter said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get over that threshold, so to speak. Every game, we’ve been in it.
“We’ve just got to make the right decisions at crucial times. … We’ve got to clean things up down the stretch and make the right decisions, take care of the ball.”