Team-First Play Leads Cowboys to Victory

Wyoming opened its season with an assertive win over Colorado-Colorado Springs Saturday night. The Pokes got 35 points from their starting backcourt, but head coach Heath Schroyer was far more impressed with the duo's team-first mindset.

It was the type of unselfish play Wyoming coach Heath Schroyer has been trying to instill in his players.

As the clock wound down on a dominant Cowboy victory, senior guard Brad Jones found himself with a chance at an easy breakaway layup. Instead, Jones—who had made just three field goals on eight tries to that point—pulled back and passed the ball to a wide-open Byron Geis, who played just two minutes in the contest.

"(It was) the one thing I was probably the most proud of," Schroyer said after the game. "Jones had a really tough night offensively….He could have went and laid it in but dished it off to a fellow senior, Byron Geis, to get him in the scorebook."

Despite the shooting struggles, Jones managed to score 15 points and pull in seven rebounds in the Pokes' 87-63 victory over Colorado-Colorado Springs in the team's season opener Saturday night.

But it was his game-high eight assists that fit the coach's game plan.

"Where he could have taken a shot, he passed to a teammate," Schroyer said. "Those are all the life lessons and the unselfish play that we are trying to teach this team."

The Cowboys finished with 20 assists on 28 field goals, the kind of ratio Schroyer preaches.

"This was a pretty good team effort," he said. "UCCS showed us a lot of good defenses, so we made some adjustments at half. They zoned us a lot today, but for the most part we got the ball where we wanted."

The Mountain Lions held Wyoming's other star guard, Brandon Ewing, to just two points in the first half on 1-of-4 shooting. But the junior bounced back in the second, hitting three three-pointers, scoring 11 straight Wyoming points and finishing the game with 20 points and four assists.

"What I was really happy about with Brad and Brandon was that they didn't press," Schroyer said. "I think we've grown a lot in that aspect. Both of them kind of struggled a little bit in the first half offensively, but they stayed with what we do. They stayed within the confines of our system."

Wyoming went on a 12-5 run to close out the game after UCCS pulled within 58-75 with 1:58 remaining. Jones scored six consecutive UW points and then found Joseph Taylor on an alley oop dunk before hitting Geis on the final play.

"They had two great guards that we had trouble with," said UCCS coach Russ Caton. "Most teams that they play will have trouble with them as well."

A 12-0 run gave the Cowboys an early 14-4 lead, and a Ryan Dermody three-pointer extended the advantage to 28-15 with 6:37 to go before halftime. A 7-0 UCCS run later in the period helped the Mountain Lions pull within 28-36 at the break, but Ewing got it going in the second half, scoring 13 of the Pokes' next 18 points.

"We've talked about (this) over and over," Schroyer said. "Over the course of 40 minutes and the course of time, good things can happen.

"Looking at the stat sheet, I knew Brandon Ewing wasn't going to go two more points in the second half."

With his 20 points, Ewing moved into a tie for 27th with Doug Bessert on Wyoming's all-time scoring list with 1,059 career points.

Dermody finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds, his first career double-double. He added a career-high three blocked shots.

After sitting out both the team's exhibition games with shin splints, Eric Platt scored 10 points for Wyoming, including hitting three three-pointers, and dished out five assists.

The Cowboys will travel to Denver to take on Denver University next Tuesday. They will play three consecutive road games before facing Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Laramie Nov. 26.

"We need to learn how to win on the road," Schroyer said, "learn about each other, be more focused and more unified."

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