LAS VEGAS -- Guard Rayvonte Rice scored a season-high 25 points, including a layup with 28 seconds left that lifted Illinois to a 61-59 victory over UNLV on Tuesday night. It was the first road win of the season for the Illini (6-0) who also extended their nonconference road winning streak to eight straight dating back to 2008. Illinois also won its 25th consecutive November game. Forward Khem Birch finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for UNLV, which fell to 2-3 despite playing all five games at home. The Runnin' Rebels, thanks to a 11-0 run to end the half, led 39-29 at halftime. Illinois opened the second half with a 18-7 run to take a 47-46 lead, capped by a 3-pointer from the top of the key by 6-foot-11 junior center Nnanna Egwu, only the second trey of his career. After UNLV pulled out to a 57-51 lead, Illinois rallied to tie it at 59 on a 3-pointer by forward Jon Ekey. The Illini then had two chances to take the lead, but Rice was blocked by Birch on a drive to the basket, and Abrams failed to connect on an open 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:11 left. UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones took a long jumper that went in and out, and Birch lost control of the rebound. That set the stage for Rice, who drove the right side of the key and bounced in a layup with 28 seconds to go. UNLV called two timeouts to try to set a potential game-tying play, but Dejean-Jones lost control on a drive to the basket. The ball bounced to Rebels guard Kevin Olekaibe, who managed to fire up a 3-pointer from the right corner with a second to go, but the shot missed. Illinois, playing its first game on the road after opening the season with five consecutive home wins, gave UNLV problems at the start with a 2-3 zone, taking a 13-8 lead on back-to-back inside baskets by guard Tracy Abrams. The Illini led 29-28 on a tip-in freshman center Maverick Morgan with 3:44 to go in the half. But Olekaibe hit a pair of 3-pointers to spark an 11-0 run by the Rebels who went into the locker room with a 39-29 lead. UNLV, which came into the game shooting a dismal 50.5 percent from the free-throw line, was a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line before the break. That helped the Runnin' Rebels overcome 11 offensive rebounds by the Illinois, which the Illini converted into 15 second-chance points. The Rebels finished 13-for-16 on foul shots. NOTES: UNLV F Roscoe Smith entered the game leading the nation in rebounding (16.3), almost a full three rebounds better than Kentucky's Julius Randle. Smith pulled down 13 boards Tuesday. ... Illinois improved to 14-0 in November under coach John Groce. ... UNLV 6-foot-9 junior F Khem Birch, who began his career at Pittsburgh, entered the game second in the nation in blocked shots with an average of 5.5 per game. He blocked four Illini shots.
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