LAS VEGAS, NEV. - Five UNLV players scored in double figures, led by freshman Anthony Bennett and his team-high 21 points, as the No. 21 Runnin' Rebels defeated Canisius College 89-74 Saturday night in the Thomas & Mack Center. The victory was UNLV's eighth straight and improved the team to 11-1 on the season, while the Golden Griffins saw their record move to 8-3 on the year.
Junior guard Billy Baron scored a career-high 30 points in the loss for Canisius, which saw its two-game winning streak come to an end. Baron was one of four Canisius players to record double-digit points in the loss, with senior Harold Washington adding 17 points while senior Isaac Sosa and junior Jordan Heath chipped in 11 points apiece. On the night, Canisius shot 40.3 percent from the field, 44.8 percent from 3-point range and 87.5 percent from the free-throw line, but it was not enough to overcome the UNLV attack, which shot 59.2 percent from the floor and 46.2 percent from behind the arc.
Sophomore Khem Birch, who was making his third appearance in a UNLV uniform after sitting out the first semester, scored 20 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked six shots in the win for the Runnin' Rebels, which improved to 8-1 at home this season. Guard Katin Reinardt added 14 points and five assists, while Bryce DeJean-Jones and Justin Hawkins added 12 points apiece in the victory.
"We got a bit out of character tonight because I felt like we settled for too many jump shots," Canisius head coach Jim Baron said. "We have been very good at hitting our 3-pointers and still driving to the basket to get to the foul line. Tonight, we tried to rely on the 3-point shot too much. We only got to the foul line eight times for the game. Even when we're hitting our threes, we need to keep taking the ball inside to draw fouls and we didn't do that. UNLV is a powerful team, but I felt like we didn't challenge them as much as we would have liked."
UNLV led at the intermission by a score of 46-39 after the host squad shot 64 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3-point land and 78.6 percent from the free-throw line in the game's opening 20 minutes. In the opening minutes of the second half, UNLV stretched its lead to 14 points at 55-41 on a 3-pointer by DeJean-Jones from the left wing with 18:17 left on the clock. From there, Canisius used a 13-2 run over the game's next 5:00, capped by a driving lay-up by Washington, to make it a three-point affair at 57-54 with 12:52 left in the game. That was as close as the Griffs would get on the night however, as UNLV ripped off seven-straight points, highlighted by a traditional three-point play by Hawkins, to push the score to 64-54 with 11:21 left on the clock. Baron nailed a 3-pointer for the Blue and Gold moments later, one of his four 3-point field goals on the night, to cut the margin to 64-57, but the Runnin' Rebels answered on their next trip down the floor after Anthony Marshall drained a trey from the left corner to make the score 67-57 with 10:26 left in regulation time.
Baron finished the night by going 10-for-16 from the field, 4-for-7 from 3-point land and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line while adding six assists and five rebounds to the Canisius effort. Jordan Heath, who came back after missing the team's last two contests with an ankle injury, had six rebounds and three steals to go with his 11 points after he went 3-for-10 from behind the 3-point line. Junior Chris Manhertz had a team-high seven rebounds for the Griffs in the loss despite playing just 24 minutes after he got into early foul trouble. For the game, UNLV out rebounded Canisius 39-28 and held a 44-24 advantage on points scored in the paint.
Canisius will return to action Thursday, Dec. 27, when the team plays host to Alcorn State in the Chevrolet Gotham Classic. Tipoff in the Koessler Athletic Center is set for 7 p.m. Time Warner SportsChannel in Buffalo will broadcast the game on a tape-delay basis.Game Notes: This was the second all-time meeting between these two programs, and UNLV has won both games... The Runnin' Rebels scored 46 first-half points, the most points allowed in any half by the Griffs this season... Canisius made 13 3-pointers in the loss, the third-straight game the team hit 10 or more 3-point field goals... The team had eight steals to match the season-high total, which also came against Buffalo (Nov. 20) and at Fairfield (Dec. 7)... Sosa's three 3-pointers on Saturday night gives him 219 for his career, including his time at Central Florida... Baron's previous career-high was 25 points, which he scored last season as a member of the Rhode Island team at Dayton on Jan. 28, 2102... He is the first Canisius player to score 30 points in a game since Washington had 30 points at Longwood Nov. 15, 2012... Washington, who had 10 points against UNLV last year, now has scored in double figures in 34 career contests in a Canisius uniform.