Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009 | 3:34 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
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LARAMIE, Wyo. -- In UNLV's first meeting this season with Wyoming, back on Jan. 17 in the Thomas & Mack Center, the Rebels' team defensive approach took Brandon Ewing out of the game -- mentally and physically -- within minutes.
In that contest, an 83-66 Rebels victory, the Mountain West Conference's leading scorer was held to seven points in 37 ineffective and visibly frustrating minutes. It was Ewing's second single-digit scoring performance of the season.
Instead of getting irritated Wednesday night in a 77-68 Cowboys victory, the slick senior erupted in positive emotion.
Mostly it was in the form of a variety of celebratory dances and gestures.
He scored a game-high 29 points on 8-of-16 shooting and ultimately set the tone against a sluggish-looking UNLV squad, which dropped its fourth road MWC tilt of the season.
"He made some shots early, and we've got to give him a lot more attention than we did," Rebels coach Lon Kruger said. "He's just a guy that can make shots and shoot it deep and he had a lot of good looks in the first half that you just can't let a good player have."
Ewing finished the night 5-of-8 from 3-point range, with the brunt of his destruction coming during a key first-half run that saw Wyoming's lead balloon from three points to 14 in a span of just three minutes and 20 seconds.
During that 13-2 stretch, Ewing hit a trio of 3-pointers, with the last one forcing Kruger to call a timeout. It also made the Chicago native the third player in Cowboys history to reach the 2,000-point plateau.
After connecting on the deep shot from the left wing, he leaned toward the student section and cupped his right hand around his ear to draw a louder reaction.
UNLV senior Wink Adams said the early defensive lapses against Ewing's attack-minded style stemmed from the Rebels' own offensive struggles.
"We're a team where we get our shooters open, and when they hit, it kind of drives us on defense," he said. "Tonight, we missed a lot of shots. Joe (Darger) missed a lot of shots, I missed some. Guys weren't shooting (well). Kendall missed some and when those guys aren't hitting, it's kind of hard to get to the basket every time because a team knows what you're doing.
"It definitely kind of dictated us on the defensive end."
The feeling was mutual for Darger, who went 1-of-8 from 3-point land.
"That had us putting our heads down for a bit and not getting back on defense like we should have, and we can't let our offensive end affect our defense," he said. "We've got to pick up the defensive intensity even harder, especially if we're missing shots, and not let them get that big lead on us like they did."
As Adams watched Ewing hit improbable shot after improbable shot, he knew exactly what kind of zone his counterpart was in, as he was in the same rhythm for a time as UNLV ran Wyoming out of the Mack last month.
Adams' 20 points against the Cowboys marked the return of 'the old Wink' -- the versatile, hard-slashing bull of a guard -- following a tough two-game stretch he endured upon his return from an abdominal strain.
"Everybody plays better at home," he said. "He got into the crowd and was playing off of momentum. Whenever you get going, you just fire it up and hit shots."
Once Ewing got going, it seemed as though the Rebels had no answer.
Last time around, Ewing faced a slew of double-teams and traps any time he even seemed to think about putting the ball on the floor.
This time, though, once he hit a couple of early shots, he held the upper hand.
Before calmly sinking some late free throws, his final work of art from the floor was a 25-foot 3-pointer from the right wing with 11 minutes to play that gave Wyoming its biggest lead of the game at 55-38.
It was the kind of shot only a guy who was truly 'feeling it' would dare hoist.
Thanks to early defensive lapses, Ewing felt it right off the bat, and never let that sensation go.
"The whole thing was disappointing, in terms of taking care of responsibilities and doing things that we want to do," Kruger said. "You can't line up and do what we did and not be disappointed by it."