Jones, Ewing Ready for MWC Tournament

Wyoming's starting guards have experience pulling off upsets in the conference tournament, and they'll have the chance to rack up a few more this week—if they can get past CSU first…

Brad Jones and Brandon Ewing are staring at a double-edged sword heading into the Mountain West Conference tournament as an eighth seed this week.

On the one hand, they'll have to play an extra game if they hope to win out. On the other hand, that extra game will be against Colorado State, a team the Pokes have beat twice in 2008.

Still, a win over the Rams on Wednesday would only force the Cowboys into a quarterfinal matchup with top-seeded BYU.

But then again, the Wyoming's star backcourt can see the silver lining in that scenario as well.

"They always say it's hard to beat a team three times in a row," said Jones, who is averaging 12.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season. "If we get past CSU…that'd be the same with BYU beating us two times already."

What's more, had the Pokes managed to escape the play-in game and earn a seventh seed by the end of the regular season, they'd now be preparing to play UNLV in Las Vegas—a task Ewing would rather put off for as long as possible.

"I've said this from the beginning, I don't think (the MWC tournament) should be at the Thomas & Mack Center because it's (the Rebels') home gym," said Ewing, who is averaging 16.8 points and 4.14 assists per game (2nd in the league in both categories). "I think it should be somewhere else, at a different casino, you know. That's what I think. But I'm glad we're not playing them in the first round because I'm sure they're going to be fired up. I'm sure it's going to be a sold-out crowd for them. No matter who they play, it's going to be sold out, so I definitely don't want to play no first round (game against UNLV).

"I'd rather beat them in the championship game."

But in order to start thinking about a championship, the Cowboys will have to win three straight games—something they haven't done since December of 2006.

Then again, past records don't seem to matter much come tournament time, and Ewing and Jones know that better than anyone.

"Everybody's zero-and-zero in the tournament," Ewing said. "We don't care who's the Player of the Year, who's all-conference, who's going to make it to the NCAA tournament, who's got an automatic bid. You don't care about none of that because if you win the tournament, you got an automatic bid no matter what, so we just got to take care of our own business."

Ewing and Jones have yet to win the MWC tournament in the three seasons they've played together at Wyoming, but they've orchestrated their fair share of postseason surprises.

In 2006, Wyoming finished the regular season with a disappointing 12-17 overall record that included just five league wins to 11 losses. The Pokes wound up with a seventh seed heading into the tournament and were slated to face Air Force in the first round. The Falcons had lost just five games all year, and another victory or two in the tourney would have made them a near lock to make it to the Big Dance.

The Cowboys had other plans, however; Wyoming jumped out to a 34-18 lead and held off a late Falcon rally with hot free throw shooting. Ewing, then a freshman, scored 12 points, including a 15-foot jumper that gave the Pokes a five-point lead with a minute and a half remaining. He finished a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, and the Cowboys pulled out an improbable 57-55 first-round victory.

They did it again the next day, only this time Jones, then a sophomore, gave Ewing some much-needed assistance. The duo combined for 37 points, and senior Justin Williams added a triple-double to lift the Cowboys to a 13-point win over Utah and an unlikely pass into the MWC championship game.

Jones and Ewing combined for 37 more points the next day against top-seeded San Diego State, only to watch a four-point lead disappear in the waning minutes of overtime.

And even though the Cowboys ended up losing to 23rd-ranked BYU in the semifinals last season, Ewing and Jones managed to come up with a bit of conference tournament magic once again. The two combined to score 48 points in another first-round upset win over Air Force, and they put up 46 more in a 96-84 loss to the Cougars.

"We all know it's a new season," Jones said of playing in the conference tournament. "We know that (with) a couple good nights, three good nights in a row…we can be at the place we want to be and where the team wants to be.

"We always go in there optimistic and looking forward to playing in the tournament."

The senior guard likened Wyoming's situation this year with the one the Pokes faced in 2006.

"It's kind of ironic," he said. "Our first year, we lost the last game of the year at San Diego State, (and) they clinched the conference title. We lost the last game of the season this year at BYU, (and) they clinched the conference title. So hopefully we'll have the same type of luck we had two years ago when we went to the championship game."

Ewing and Jones each average 18.6 points per game in MWC tournament play, and their experience is something Ewing said they can draw on this week.

"Me and Brad know what it is," he said. "We know what it takes to win, especially in a big atmosphere like that. Everybody's going to be there. Everybody's fans going to be there, there's a big atmosphere, a sellout crowd. It's time to show up. Top players show up in big-time games."

Their first big-time game, the pigtail matchup against CSU, is scheduled to tip off at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Cowboy Blitz Top Stories