SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The red-hot Red Claws ran into a white-hot Tornike Shengelia.
The 6-foot-8 forward assigned to Springfield by the Brooklyn Nets earlier in the week set a team record for field goals with 17 and points with 39 to lead the Armor to a 123-115 win over Maine before 1,557 at the MassMutual Center.
The loss stopped the Red Claws’ win streak at six, one shy of the franchise record set in 2009-10. It was the first time in five games that the Red Claws have lost to their New England rivals.
“We came out with a lot of motivation and the guys did a great job, our recent streak there has been a lot of great basketball,” Maine Coach Mike Taylor said. “You got to give a lot of credit to Springfield, they played very physical and played really well and I think obviously the NBA guys made a big difference for them.”
Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor (21 points, 10 rebounds) certainly had a lot to do with the Armor coming back from a 17-point deficit in the first quarter. The 39 points by Shengelia tied the Springfield franchise record set by former Red Claw Morris Almond.
Also, it was the most points scored by an individual against Maine this season and the 123 points scored by the Armor was one shy of the most by an opponent.
The way the game started it did not appear as if the Armor would even break 100. Maine came out firing and the Armor made it easier for the Red Claws by turning the ball over.
Maine (16-9) built a 32-15 lead as DaJuan Summers, who scored a Red Claws’ season-high 34 points, Chris Wright (17 points) and Champ Oguchi (15 points) were locked in on the rim.
But the Armor (7-15) scored the final nine points of the quarter to cut the lead to eight, then reeled off a 13-0 spree during the first half of the second quarter to take a 42-38 lead.
“What really bothered us in today’s game was the foul trouble in the frontcourt,” Taylor said. “Fab Melo and Chris Wright with the early three fouls in the first half forced us to play our bench. Our bench gave us great effort but they provided us with some matchup difficulties.”
Shengelia was a nightmare for anyone to guard, getting to the rim seemingly at will as he threw down seven dunks.
Still, the Red Claws had the lead after three quarters as Summers buried a 3-pointer to close out the period with Maine ahead 86-84.
The lead went back and forth a few times before Shengelia scored on three straight possessions in the paint. The first was a dunk, the second a tip-in and the third a drive for a 97-92 lead.
Summers broke the run, but the Armor answered with another 6-0 run that sealed it.
“DaJuan played extremely well but I think it was kind of a rough night for some of our other players,” Taylor said. “DaJuan has shown why he is one of the top players in the D-League and why he is getting a lot of interest from NBA teams.”
Andre Barrett added 16 assists, one shy of the team’s season high he set against Iowa in his first start for Maine, which returns to action Friday night hosting Santa Cruz.