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New faces help Ants pick up home victory

– After winning for only the second time in the last 10 games, Mad Ants coach Duane Ticknor wasn’t feeling relief Friday night.

The 107-97 victory over the Texas Legends – after three of the wildest days in Mad Ants history – simply reinforced Ticknor’s expectations.

“The thing is, this is how we’re supposed to play,” said Ticknor, whose team got 24 points from Orlando Johnson, 23 from Ron Howard and big contributions from newly acquired Luke Harangody and Anthony Richardson.

“All we did was play the way we’re supposed to. It’s been disappointing up to this point and hopefully we’re shaping things up and can turn this thing around.”

On Wednesday, the Mad Ants traded Walker Russell Jr., who had spent six seasons with the team, to Reno for Richardson and Jack McClinton.

As if that wasn’t indictment enough of the Mad Ants’ 3-10 record, they remained ambitious Friday, dealing former Purdue star JaJuan Johnson to Canton for Harangody, the former Notre Dame star and Cleveland Cavalier who hadn’t played this season following knee surgery.

So, essentially, the Mad Ants dealt away more than 27 points per game for Richardson’s 11.2 points per game, McClinton’s 0.7 and Harangody, who averaged 18.9 points and 11.7 rebounds last season in 19 D-League games.

“He is what we knew he was going to be,” Ticknor said. “He’s a great rebounder and a go-to guy, which is something we haven’t had. He just plays with such intensity and an effort level that he’s really a fun guy to coach and we’re really happy to have him here. He’s a great person and is going to be a great teammate.”

In between the trades, the Indiana Pacers reassigned Johnson to Fort Wayne, and he made 9 of 19 shots before getting called back up late Friday. Miles Plumlee was sent down in his place.

Harangody, 6-foot-7, 245 pounds, had 19 points and a game-high 18 rebounds. He and Richardson, who scored 18, both played about 38 minutes, amazing since all they’d had with the Mad Ants before the game was the morning shoot-around.

“I haven’t been on the court for five weeks now, and it just felt good to be out there,” Harangody said. “We were having fun and playing hard. I don’t think this was this team’s best basketball game, but the important thing is we fought hard and we made shots when we needed to. It’s a good group of guys, and it was awesome playing with them. I look forward to more games, more wins.”

The Mad Ants gave up the first 10 points – and the 2,967 fans must have thought they were in for a familiar outcome – but a 34-23 run in the third quarter gave them the lead for good against the Legends (8-5).

Texas was led by 22 points apiece from Sean Singletary and Christian Eyenga.

“We just got off to a slow start, and our shots weren’t falling early,” Harangody said.

“Then we got in the flow of the game, and we needed to slow them down on transition, and that’s something we did that changed the game.”

Added Ticknor: “We kept it pretty simple, and I thought we executed really well. And we played really unselfishly and I was really happy with that.”

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