It's been almost a month since UNLV suffered a loss, but the Runnin' Rebels know they are far from perfect.
Looking to win nine in a row for the second time in three seasons, the No. 21 Rebels hope for a complete effort against Canisius on Saturday night.
UNLV (10-1) has played relatively well while winning eight straight since an 83-79 loss to Oregon on Nov. 23. Only two opponents have managed 70 points during that span against a Rebels team that allows 62.1 per contest. UNLV held Northern Iowa to 33.3 percent shooting in a 73-59 victory Wednesday.
The Rebels continue to win despite playing the last three contests without last season's leading scorer and rebounder Mike Moser, who is out indefinitely with an elbow injury. They've also managed to overcome in-game lapses from time to time.
UNLV won 76-75 at California on Dec. 9 despite Moser getting hurt and the Golden Bears shooting 52.8 percent from the field, and the Rebels almost squandered a 15-point lead in Monday's 62-60 victory at UTEP.
After a quick turnaround, they jumped out to a 21-point halftime lead against Northern Iowa before getting outscored 37-30 after the break.
"Our coaching staff did a terrific job on short time with the game plan," guard Anthony Marshall said. "The luxury of our guys is playing a lot of positions. Having guys like that makes the game easy. It's hard to keep playing at the same intensity. To be an elite program, we've got to fix it."
The Rebels' commitment to defense is a big reason they've been able to remain successful despite their inconsistency. In three games since the Cal victory, UNLV has allowed an average of 54.3 points on 35.0 percent shooting.
"Our versatility on defense makes us a tough matchup," coach Dave Rice said.
Among the nation's top freshmen, Anthony Bennett (19.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg) had 20 points with 12 rebounds Wednesday while fellow Canadian Khem Birch added 11 and nine, respectively. The 6-foot-9 Birch was playing his second game after sitting out the fall semester following his transfer from Pittsburgh.
"Khem Birch was terrific," Rice said. "I knew he would be inspired from game one to game two. (Bennett's) only agenda is helping his team to win. He is mature beyond his years. When you have a high-level player like Anthony Bennett, it raises your expectations."
Another big night for the duo would likely lift the Rebels past Canisius (8-2) for the second consecutive season. UNLV led by 21 at halftime and shot 61.1 percent overall in last season's 95-70 victory over the Griffins.
Looking for a third straight victory, Canisius has already surpassed its win total from last season's 5-25 finish. Guard Billy Baron (16.2 ppg) scored 19 points in Wednesday's 72-62 win at Temple.
"This is another solid win for this program," said first-year coach Jim Baron, the father of the team's leading scorer.
Canisius, which lost 85-61 at then-No. 4 Syracuse last Saturday, has not beaten a Top 25 opponent since a 72-69 win over No. 13 Cincinnati on Dec. 9, 1994.
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