With the holidays approaching, UNLV coach Dave Rice plans on giving his team a full three-day break to be with family. Still, he expects his players to perform on the court before they go their separate ways.
The 21st-ranked Runnin' Rebels go for their fourth consecutive win Friday when they host streaking California, which is looking for a better result than it had in its first game against a ranked opponent this season.
Two days after UNLV (12-2) held then-No. 19 Illinois to 16 field goals and 25.4 percent shooting in a 64-48 victory Saturday, the Rebels continued their outstanding defensive play by scoring 24 points off 19 turnovers in an 81-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
UNLV has given up 55.4 points per game in its last five, and Rice expects another strong effort at the defensive end heading into the holiday break. After this game, the Rebels don't play again until Wednesday.
"Final exams are done, so our guys can concentrate 100 percent on basketball, and this is the time of year we can make great improvement getting ready for conference play," Rice told the school's official website.
Senior guard Oscar Bellfield scored 10 points and added a career high-tying four steals Monday.
"We tried to go out there with a lot of energy,'' he said. "We tried to take it to them and that's something we did. Coach just tells us to pick up our defense to get our offense going. If we know we play (defense), we can get our fast break going.''
Few teams have been able to get much going offensively against the Golden Bears (10-2), who are giving up 47.3 points and 30.9 percent shooting during a four-game winning streak.
Despite top defender Jorge Gutierrez being out with an illness and forward Richard Solomon sidelined with a left foot injury, Cal beat UC Santa Barbara 70-50 on Monday.
Sophomore guard Justin Cobbs scored a career-high 25 points and helped the Bears limit Orlando Johnson - among the nation's leading scorers at 20.9 points per game - to a season-low nine.
"It shows that we have other weapons on the team," said guard Allen Crabbe, who finished with 19 points and six rebounds. "Once everybody realized that Jorge wasn't going to be able to suit up tonight, everybody got it in their head that they were going to have to step up."
Coach Mike Montgomery said that Gutierrez will be available Friday, but Solomon could be out for several games.
If the Golden Bears are going to snap the Rebels' 10-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents, they'll have to find a way to shut down UNLV forwards Chace Stanback and Mike Moser.
Stanback scored a career-high 29 points Monday, while Moser is averaging 13.6 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Gutierrez scored 10 points off the bench in the teams' last meeting - a 73-55 Cal win Nov. 28, 2008, that snapped UNLV's 19-game home winning streak. The Rebels had been 3-0 in the series.
Gutierrez and Solomon fouled out early in the second half of a 92-53 loss to then-No. 21 Missouri on Nov. 22 in the final of the CBE Classic, dropping the Bears out of the Top 25.
Cal has lost five in a row to ranked foes since a 57-50 win over then-No. 21 Temple on Nov. 25, 2010.