Coming off a pair of close road wins, UNLV will look to add another victory to its unblemished record.
The 18th-ranked Rebels get that opportunity Saturday when they take on a red-hot Kansas State team at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Following its 74-72 double-overtime victory at Arizona on Dec. 2, UNLV improved to 7-0 last Saturday with a 66-63 win at Santa Clara.
Oscar Bellfield hit three 3s and scored 15 points, and junior guard Tre’Von Willis added all 14 of his in the second half as the Rebels rallied from an eight-point halftime deficit to extend the team’s longest winning streak to open a season since the 34-0 start by the 1990-91 team.
“They’re excited about what’s happening,” said coach Lon Kruger, whose team is ranked in December for the first time since the 1992-93 season. “Despite what happened in the first half, they’ve done a good job keeping it in perspective. We have a lot of work to do.”
Kruger, though, must be satisfied with his team’s defense, which has yet to allow an opponent to shoot better than 40 percent in any game and is holding opponents to 37.7 percent overall.
Kansas State (8-1), looking for its first six-game winning streak since Jan. 24-Feb. 11, has held three opponents below 30 percent shooting. Despite missing 17 free throws and 13 of 17 from 3-point range, the Wildcats forced 13 turnovers and limited Xavier to 29.4 percent from the field in Tuesday’s 71-56 victory.
Junior Curtis Kelly just missed his third double-double of the season with 15 points and nine rebounds as Kansas State outrebounded the defending Atlantic 10 champs 46-33.
“Going into the game, our coaches said they were going to beat us up down there and we took that has motivation,” sophomore forward Jamar Samuels told the school’s official Web site after adding 11 points and a season-high eight rebounds off the bench. “We just came out and tried to get every single rebound that came off the rim.”
UNLV was outrebounded 42-28 on Saturday at Santa Clara.
Wildcats leading scorer Jacob Pullen, averaging 18.2 points, scored 14 of his team-high 16 in the second half Tuesday. Kansas State is 12-4 when the junior guard has led it in scoring.
The Wildcats will try for their second straight victory against a ranked opponent after losing six of seven to top 25 teams. Pullen had a season-high 26 points and senior Denis Clemente scored 21 as Kansas State began its current winning streak with an 83-75 victory over then-No. 18 Dayton on Nov. 22 in the third-place game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Saturday’s game is being played at Orleans Arena because the Thomas & Mack Center is hosting the National Finals Rodeo. UNLV is 2-0 all-time at Orleans Arena and posted a 70-61 victory over Western Michigan on Dec. 14.
The Rebels have won three of four matchups versus Kansas State. In the teams’ last meeting, UNLV won 80-78 in the second round of the 1987 NCAA tournament.