AP Photo/Laramie Boomerang, Ben Woloszyn
Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | 3:16 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob 'Wise Owl' Miech discuss the Rebels' 77-68 setback on Wednesday night in Laramie. The Cowboys' effort was sparked by the combination of a sluggish start from the Rebs, plus a memorable performance by the dance-happy Brandon Ewing. Plus, the guys take a look at Saturday's home contest with BYU.
Beyond the Sun
- Laramie Boomerang: ’Pokes run down Rebels
LARAMIE, Wyo. – Missed 3-pointers and missed free throws turned into a missed opportunity for UNLV on Wednesday night at the Arena-Auditorium.
As bad as the 77-68 defeat to Wyoming looked, though, the Rebels had a chance to salvage something from its lackluster evening.
UNLV trailed by 17 points with a bit more than 11 minutes remaining when it rallied, slicing the deficit to three on senior forward Joe Darger’s 3-point shot with 3:39 left.
But the Cowboys used patience and senior guard Brandon Ewing’s hot hand to keep the Rebels at bay.
Ewing drew a crowd and fed the ball to senior guard Sean Ogirri, who drilled a 3-point shot from the left side to double Wyoming’s advantage to 64-58.
Tyson Johnson hit a free throw, and the Cowboys maintained at least a five-point edge the rest of the way.
When Darger hit that 3-pointer to get UNLV within three points of Wyoming, a small window had opened for the Rebels.
“But we couldn’t quite get through,” said UNLV coach Lon Kruger.
UNLV finished 5-for-26 from 3-point range and 19-for-28 at the line.
Rougeau missed two free throws with 49 seconds left and senior power forward Mo Rutledge went 1-for-2 five seconds later. Early in the second half, when he was fouled beyond the 3-point arc, Darger missed his first two freebies before sinking his third.
Ewing littered the Rebels with 29 points, a high for a UNLV foe this season, and he entered the game needing just eight to become the third Wyoming player to score 2,000 points.
Steve "Chopper" Jones, the walk-on UNLV transfer from Arizona State, played the role of Ewing in practice earlier this week and showed what might be coming with some gritty drives and timely jumpers.
Kruger also stressed rebounding, highlighting tough box-out drills, in preparing for Wyoming.
Ewing, obviously, had his way with the Rebels. And Wyoming pummeled UNLV, 44-29, on the boards.
“That’s not the plan we had in mind, for sure,” Kruger said. “The whole thing was disappointing, in terms of taking care of responsibilities and doing the things we want to do.
“You can’t line up and do what we did and not be disappointed by it. We didn’t take care of many things that we had in mind.”
Willis and senior guard Wink Adams had 18 apiece for UNLV, which dropped to 19-7 and 7-5 in the Mountain West Conference, and Rougeau tallied 16.
Wyoming (15-10, 4-7) had lost its previous four games.
“I wasn’t going to let my team lose,” Ewing said. “We lost enough this year. I couldn’t let my team lose. We have five more, and I can’t let my team lose anymore.”
The Rebels missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts in the first half, which led to Wyoming’s 35-25 lead at the intermission.
“We didn’t have the step or the fire or the enthusiasm to fight it off,” Kruger said. “We fought an uphill battle all night.
Ewing said the Cowboys might have surprised the Rebels with their own defense, by making UNLV make the extra pass.
“But they were also just missing shots,” Ewing said. “That’s unlike UNLV. They usually make big-time shots. I think that helped us out a little bit.”
UNLV chipped away at Wyoming with its full-court trapping defense during the final 10 minutes, which ultimately helped the Rebels force 24 turnovers.
But the Rebels finished with a season-low six assists. The pressing defense that had been rewarding them with unselfish baskets on offense evaporated at 7,220 feet.
With March around the corner, every loss will put more emphasis on winning the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas to secure an automatic bid to a third consecutive NCAA tournament.
Or else the NIT, maybe USC, Baylor or Portland State, beckons.
“I don’t think we came out and picked it up, like what we talked about,” Darger said. “We missed a lot of shots early, but we can’t let that affect our games. Wyoming outplayed us tonight.
“It’s very frustrating, especially at this point in the season. Every game is huge for us. We came out and didn’t tonight. We have to bounce back against BYU.”
Kruger said it’s hard to explain or understand.
“Especially at this point in the season,” he said. “You can’t afford to do that. When you do, you make it possible for the result that occurred tonight.”
UNLV was 0-for-13 beyond the 3-point arc when Adams finally sank one early in the second half to cut Wyoming’s lead to 39-32.
But the Cowboys didn’t let up and padded their lead to 55-38 on Ewing’s long 3-point shot over Rougeau.
The Rebels got back into it on a power drive by Willis, a 17-footer by Adams, Rougeau’s fast-break jam and Willis’s 3-point shot.
Darger gave them hope, then Ogirri yanked it away 29 seconds later.
The disparity on the boards was indicative of the Cowboys’ all-around hustle edge.
“Wyoming was much quicker to all that than we were,” Kruger said. “They had a step up on us all night. We just didn’t win many of those battles.
"We’ve been up and down all year with that … we have to lay it out there every night to have a chance.”