Kicking off the second half of the season, the NBA G League Ignite had a comeback effort fall just short resulting in a road loss to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Ultimately, the Ignite battled back from double-digits but fell to the Vipers, 115-109, Thursday, Dec. 28. From Bert Ogden Arena. On paper, it's the program’s third straight loss dating back to the winter showcase and beyond.
Through the first portion of the schedule head coach Jason Hart’s group went 4-12 including a 1-6 mark on the road. The team’s second half schedule starts with a four-game road trip.
To complete a two-game mini-series with Rio Grande Valley, the Ignite will return to the Bert Ogden Arena Friday, Dec. 29 for another 5:30 p.m. tip-off against the Vipers.
In the first of the two contests, this year’s developmental group battled back from 17 points down in the second half to tie the game at 95 apiece with less than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The run started late in the third quarter when the team cut the deficit to nine points on an 11-3 run to close the frame. That spurt was stretched 15-3 before Rio Grande Valley could respond with a bucket.
However, when the Vipers did respond it did so in a big way. The home team rattled off a 13-4 run to push the lead back to nine and eventually back to double-digits before a last-gasp effort from the Ignite late in regulation.
In a game that was tightly contested, Hart’s young core had the game slip out of reach briefly in the second quarter when the offense went cold. Going without a point for more than four minutes and without a field goal for nearly five and a half minutes. During that time, Rio Grande Valley went on a 12-0 run coupled with a fast start out of halftime to create the original large gap.
Projected top pick Ron Holland led the team in scoring with 23 points on 8-of-17 from the floor beginning with 10 points in the first quarter. In two games played at the showcase, he was limited to 20 total points on a combined 7-for-31 shooting.
Holland’s and-one basket plus the free throw early in the fourth quarter trimmed the once double-digit lead to two. He also did it on both ends recording a game-high six steals.
Fellow projected top pick Matas Buzelis dealt with foul trouble in the first half as he was held scoreless on three field goal attempts in seven minutes played due to three fouls. His first made basket came with 9:46 left in the third quarter on the way to finishing with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting before fouling out.
Veteran guard John Jenkins scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half amidst a five made three-pointer night. In fact, his 5-of-9 mark from deep was rivaled by the rest of the team shooting 2-for-20 from long range.
Draft-eligible forward Izan Almansa posted a double-double with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Forward Babacar Sane was responsible for back-to-back dunks in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 95 but received a technical foul for hanging on the rim after the second jam. He’d finish with 15 points off-the-bench.
Fellow reserve Norris Cole added 10 points as well.
Seventeen-year-old Dink Pate made his debut after being cleared from a foot injury. He went on to play four minutes, scoring two points on a one-for-two free throw.