It may not fit the game plan of the team's first-year head coach, but Wyoming's star backcourt isn't afraid to take over a game—even if it is an exhibition.
The Cowboys got all they could handle from Division II Colorado State-Pueblo Tuesday night, but Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones combined for 25 second-half points to lift the Pokes to a 73-66 win in their final exhibition contest.
"They're obviously good players, and they have those kind of abilities," said Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer. "But I'll say it today and everyday, if we're going to succeed as a program this year, next year, every year, it needs to be a collective, group effort.
"Those guys are good guys. On any given night, they're both talented enough to carry us, but for us to reach our ultimate goals in this program, everyone needs to play better."
It didn't help that the teams took 89 free throws.
"It was just kind of hard to get in a rhythm," Ewing said. "It's an adjustment. You have to pick up on how the refs are calling (fouls)."
But as the game wore on and the whistles kept coming, Jones and Ewing took matters into their own hands.
"We just wanted to try to get a little momentum by going to the rim and trying to get fouled," Jones said. "The game started at seven and I think it's almost 10:00, so it was a grind-it-out game, but it kind of took us out of our game plan a lot because there was a lot of fouls called. At one point, I think it was five possessions and there were five fouls called every time down."
Jones finished with a game-high 22 points along with four assists and nine rebounds. Ewing added 17 points and four assists, and the duo got some help from Travis Bunker, who scored 10 points.
CSU-Pueblo was led by Ty McTyer, who had 17 points, six assists and six rebounds. The ThunderWolves got 14 points from Rome Smith and 12 points and nine rebounds from Brian Sewald.
After a 26-foul first half, the referees called 42 more in the second, and poor free throw shooting from the Cowboys kept the ThunderWolves in the game. The Pokes hit just 34 of 56 attempts from the charity stripe, compared to 24 of 33 by CSU-Pueblo.
"With the free throw line, we're just anxious," Ewing said. "We got to get back to the basics."
Wyoming led by double digits throughout much of the second half, but back-to-back buckets from McTyer capped a 9-1 run by CSU-Pueblo that cut the lead to 65-59 with 1:38 remaining. A three-pointer from McTyer less than a minute later made it 70-64 and Ken Moses was fouled on another three-point attempt with 16.9 seconds left. He hit two of the three from the line to pull the ThunderWolves within 71-66, but a pair of free throws from Jones sealed the Wyoming win.
"They just had a good game," Ewing said. "They outplayed us today. I'm just glad we came away with a victory."
It just wasn't supposed to be so close.
"I don't think we played too good of a game tonight. I think all the guys…agree," Jones said. "It's all a part of the learning experience. We had a lot of new guys still. It's the second game for a lot of these guys, and it was just a wake-up call. We'll play better next time."
A nine-minute Wyoming field goal drought kept the ThunderWolves in it for much of the first half. A pair of three-pointers from Smith and Julien Franklin highlighted an 8-0 CSU-Pueblo run that cut the Cowboys' lead to 13-10 with 9:25 left before the break.
Another three from Smith eight minutes later made the score 28-25—the smallest Wyoming lead since the early minutes of the game—but Ewing's layup as time expired gave the Cowboys a 30-25 halftime advantage.
The Pokes will open up their regular season this weekend against Colorado-Colorado Springs.
Wyoming Squeaks Out Win in Final Exhibition
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