With crisp offensive execution and impressive pressure defense, UNLV was at its best its last time out. The Runnin' Rebels will look to duplicate that performance when they face a Hawaii team that gave them problems in last season's meeting.
The No. 24 Rebels close out a season-opening six-game homestand Saturday night when they face the Rainbow Warriors, who will play on the road for the first time as they come off a 10-day layoff.
UNLV (4-1) overwhelmed UC Irvine 85-57 on Wednesday, recording 22 assists and a season-low seven turnovers. Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser each scored a team-high 19, with all of Bennett's points coming in 23 minutes.
"From an offensive consistency standpoint, I thought it was our best game (of the season)," coach Dave Rice said.
Rice's team may have been even better on defense, holding the Anteaters scoreless during a crucial 5 minutes of the second half and outscoring them 51-31 after the break. The Rebels' press seemed to wear down UC Irvine as the game went on.
"Tonight the defensive effort got us going," said Moser, who added a team-high nine rebounds. "When we're making stops and making shots, it's a winning combination. We're slowly getting better. And my part in that is to continue to attack the glass and make plays for everyone, including myself."
The Anteaters entered the week No. 7 in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, but UNLV forced 15 turnovers and limited UC Irvine to a season-low 10 assists.
"The thing making them good right now is their physical aggressiveness defensively," Anteaters coach Russell Turner said. "That really bothered us. It bothered us more than I thought."
Hawaii wasn't quite as bothered by UNLV on Dec. 31, giving the then-No. 19 Rebels a scare before falling 74-69 at home. The Warriors (4-1) outscored UNLV 41-39 in the second half despite allowing the Rebels to shoot 52 percent after the break.
UNLV guard Anthony Marshall had 19 points and 13 rebounds in that game, while Moser added 15 and 12.
Hawaii defeated North Dakota 71-66 on Nov. 20 as it narrowly avoided blowing another big lead after going up by 23. The Warriors squandered a 16-point second-half advantage and lost 78-77 to Illinois on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in overtime in their previous outing.
North Dakota pulled within 69-66 with 1:06 to play but guard Brandon Spearman's two free throws sealed the victory.
Spearman is among three Hawaii players averaging at least 15.0 points, joining center Vander Joaquim and forward Christian Standhardinger, while Hauns Brereton averages 13.0. Point guard Jace Tavita is recording 8.0 assists per game.
Joaquim scored 15 points against UNLV last season and Brereton added nine and five rebounds.
Last season's loss to the Rebels was Hawaii's most recent meeting with a ranked team. UNLV has won four straight matchups, the last three on the road.