PORTLAND – With a roster full of shooters, scoring points isn’t going to be a problem for the Maine Red Claws. Playing defense might be.

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants came into the Portland Expo Wednesday night and outshot the Red Claws 118-110 before a crowd of 3,045. The Mad Ants, who have beaten the Red Claws all three times they’ve played this season, shot 48.3 percent from the field and made 13 3-pointers.

They led for the final 43 minutes, 57 seconds, building a 13-point lead in the second quarter and thwarting every Maine comeback.

Three times in the third quarter, the Red Claws pulled within two points with a chance to tie. Each time the Mad Ants made a defensive stop, then went down and scored.

”We don’t have the defense,” said Red Claws Coach Austin Ainge. ”They have a lot of scorers and we don’t have a lot of guys that right now are willing to get their hands dirty and do what it takes to make stops.”

The Red Claws fell to 20-14 and are in second place in the D-League East Conference. Fort Wayne improved to 13-19 and is in fifth place.

The Red Claws led early but Fort Wayne took control with an efficient offense. Paul Davis gave the Red Claws their final lead, 18-17, on a foul-line jumper with 4:15 left in the first period. The Mad Ants got a 3-pointer from Rob Kurz 12 seconds later to take the lead at 20-18, and they never trailed again.

Kurz led Fort Wayne with 26 points and five others scored in double figures. The Mad Ants hit 13 of 33 3-pointers and 19 of 22 foul shots.

The Red Claws, meanwhile, hit only 5 of 20 3-pointers and missed eight foul shots.

”We shot the ball well,” said Red Ants Coach Joey Meyer. ”We moved the ball well. We had open shots and we knocked them down. And I think our bench was gigantic in the first half.”

Fort Wayne’s bench outscored Maine’s, 47-28.

But, Meyer continued, all of that means nothing when the teams meet again tonight at the Expo.

”Now we have to see if we can do it again,” he said. ”We hit shots (Wednesday night), hopefully we’ll continue to do it.

”That’s a talented team. We’ll have to play well to duplicate the result. I’ll take it, I’m not giving it back.”

Maine was within three points a couple of times early in the fourth and when Darnell Lazare hit two foul shots with 8:55 left, it was 95-90. But the Red Ants responded with an 8-2 run, punctuated by a two-handed dunk by Anthony Kent off a nifty pass from Roderick Wilmont, and they were in control again, 103-92.

”They outplayed us,” said Ainge. ”That’s why they won.”

Russell Robinson led Maine with 23 points and Morris Almond, making his home debut, had 21. But the Red Claws have to regain their defensive footing. They gave up 19 points more than their average coming into the game.

”They’re a really good offensive team and they took advantage of every mistake we made,” said Maine forward Billy Thomas. ”It came down to we didn’t make crucial stops. We’ve got to do a better job of that.”

”It’s about playing hard and getting everyone on the same page,” said Robinson. ”It’s about picking each other up.”

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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