Ewing falls victim to Rebels’ team defensive approach

Wyoming guard held to single-digit scoring for second time this season


Sam Morris

UNLV’s Mareceo Rutledge, left, and Brice Massamba beat Wyoming guard Brandon Ewing for the ball during their game Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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Box score

Even in defeat, Wyoming senior point guard Brandon Ewing proclaimed that no one man alone could hold him to seven points in a game.

More than one? Well, different story there.

The Rebels' consistent defensive switching kept the Mountain West's leading scorer guessing all night, as he was held to seven points on two-of-five shooting in his team's 83-66 loss to UNLV Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It was only the second time this season that Ewing, who entered the game averaging 19.1 points per game, had been held to single-digit scoring.

"They did a good job with team defense," Ewing said. "There's not one person who can shut me down, not one person who can ever shut me down to like seven points, but they did a great job defensively as a team. I take my hat off to them.

"They just lost back-to-back games, and they're used to winning championships in this building. I knew they were going to try to give the fans something to watch."

Everyone got into the act for the Rebels at the defensive end, and without Ewing setting the offensive tone early on, the Cowboys were forced to settle for a slew of 3-point attempts.

Senior guard Sean Ogirri, who came into the weekend leading the league in both 3-pointers made (52) and attempted (129), went seven-of-15 from long range. That included a nearly 30-foot attempt in the opening minutes that missed, plus a pull-up connection on a three-on-two fastbreak.

But there just wasn't enough offense elsewhere to support Ogirri's itchy trigger from the perimeter.

"Brandon picked up two fouls early, and I think it made him a little tentative, and they did a nice job getting the ball out of his hands," Cowboys coach Heath Schroyer said.

Schroyer's not lying in saying that Ewing changed after the two early fouls.

In fact, he scored one of the Cowboys' first buckets of the game on a tough running layup inside while drawing a foul. After hitting it, he sauntered over in front of the UNLV pep band and student section and glared, nodding his head.

His swagger, however, disappeared after the foul calls, and his body language was spotty for the rest of the night.

Compounding his bothersome seven-point performance were three turnovers, as he was one of five Wyoming players with at least three giveaways. As a team, they had 18 turnovers compared to only nine assists.

"This is 14 games in a row they got 23 points off of turnovers," Schroyer said. "They got 24 against us. That's just what they do, and you can't defend (UNLV) when they get out in the floor off of turnovers. It's gonna be a long night."

While it was a bitter end to the week, the Cowboys still have an 83-79 Wednesday night home victory over San Diego State to their credit, which essentially made it a push.

They proved in both outings this week that they're capable of hanging with the league's alleged "elite," which gives them all the reason to believe they can hang around in what's becoming a muddied-up conference race early on.

"We're right there," said Ewing, whose team is now 12-5 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West. "The score doesn't dictate how the game really was. It was a close game all throughout. But they had control of it."

The Cowboys face another tough test before playing at home again, as they'll face TCU in Fort Worth on Wednesday night. The Horned Frogs, who took down UNLV last Saturday, 80-73, are tied with Utah atop the league standings at 3-1 following a win at Air Force on Saturday afternoon.

They'll get their second shot at the Rebels on Feb. 18 in Laramie, and by then, Schroyer and his staff will have built up a pretty nice "what not to do" file in preparation.

"Maybe try not to give up 22 offensive rebounds and turn it over (so much)," Schroyer said. "They're good. They put you in situations where you've got to pick your poison, because their spacing is exceptional. I think they space the ball on offense as well as anyone we've played. And not only is their spacing good, but they space it with guys who can all pass it, dribble it and shoot it."

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  1. Wyoming's number11 name is pronounced: Jee-breel Chaam