UNLV entered Saturday’s game with its coach fuming about recent defensive efforts and knowing it had to face a player who doesn’t have bad nights against the Rebels.
Well, Wyoming guard Brandon Ewing usually doesn’t have a bad night.
But he had one this time, with UNLV’s Rene Rougeau, Wink Adams and Tre’Von Willis sharing the defensive duties against Ewing and denying him the basketball. It was as if someone else had donned his No. 23 Wyoming uniform.
Ewing attempted only five shots and scored seven points in UNLV’s 83-66 victory at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“He usually does a good job against us, and he likes playing against us,” Rougeau said. “We kind of took that pressure to say, ‘This is our house, we have to defend it.’
“We all have to give him attention. He’s such a dangerous player. He has dropped 30 (points) on us a few times already.”
In last season’s two meetings, Ewing scored 26 and 20 points, though the Rebels won both games. He also scored 30 points in each meeting the season before as the teams split the series.
But this wasn’t just about the past. Ewing was on a tear entering Saturday’s game. He had scored at least 20 points in five consecutive games and eight of the previous nine to lead the Mountain West Conference with a 19.4-point average.
Ewing had scored in double digits in all nine games. The last time he failed to hit that mark before Saturday was a seven-point effort at Loyola Marymount on Dec. 6.
“We tried to make him drive and frustrate him a little,” Adams said.
UNLV did more than simply switch man-to-man coverage on Ewing. A second defender, often Joe Darger, also was there to make sure Ewing had nowhere to go.
Ewing credited the Rebels’ defense, but said his scoring was limited more because he saw open teammates and got the ball to them. Ewing led the Cowboys with five assists.
“I was just trying to get the win,” he said. “I don’t really look at the scoreboard and see how much I’m scoring.”
This was a much-needed effort by the Rebels, whose defensive lapses had been costly.
They outrebounded Wyoming 44-33, forced 18 turnovers and made seven steals.
The job they did on Ewing might have been the most impressive part.
“Ewing is such a terrific player,” coach Lon Kruger said.” I thought our guys really made him work to get the shots that he got.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914.Slideshow