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December 23, 2012KHEMING INTO HIS OWN - Bucking the trend is what Khem Birch is doing right now. And he's making it look rather easy.
Three games into his UNLV Runnin' Rebel career, Birch certainly doesn't look like a player that had only competed in 10 Division I games before over a year layoff.
Head coach Dave Rice said last weekend, right before Birch's debut, that it would take some time and that fans needed to be patient with Birch. Well, if this is what he meant by being patient, fans will welcome what more is to come from the outstanding center from Montreal.
Birch is looking every bit the difference maker that fellow Canadian, Anthony Bennett, has already proven to be, albeit in a completely different manner.
A true stat stuffer, Birch finished Saturday's win against Canisius with 20 points, eight rebounds, six blocks, three assists and a steal. He made an impact in every facet of the game.
Known as a defensive specialist and enforcer around the rim, Birch is showing that he can put up huge numbers without a ton of touches. His 20 points tonight came on just eight shots from the field. That's as good as you can get from a production standpoint on the offensive end of the floor.
No, Birch isn't going to put up gaudy statistics like this every game out. However, the fact that he can be so effective will loosen up some coverage on Bennett. And vice versa for Birch.
Rebel fans have waited patiently. Rice preached patience. After seeing what Birch is capable of, supporters may not be able to hold back their excitement any longer.
DEFENSIVE MEASURES - You can see it coming for Katin Reinhardt.
Defense was never his calling card, but he was so good offensively that it didn't really matter while playing at Mater Dei. He could get by on talent alone on that end of the floor.
Being a freshman at UNLV became a different story, especially if he wanted a role that included being in the starting rotation.
And it was ugly early on. Reinhardt struggled from the outset, getting picked on by opposing coaches that worked the ball until they found a matchup that included the freshman guard. It was very apparent during the Oregon loss that this strategy was being utilized by Ducks' coach Dana Altman.
Ever since that rough night, though, Reinhardt has dedicated himself to being, at the very worst, an adequate defender. At the best, Reinhardt has a chance to turn his defense from a weakness to a strength. At the rate he's going right now, that wouldn't be unheard of.
Rice and Reinhardt said after the game that he is sucking up everything that Justin Hawkins can throw at him like a sponge, which is only going to accelerate the process.
J-HAWK SPARKS RUN - Canisius had snuck up right behind the Rebels midway through the second half, trailing by only three points.
Then, Hawkins turned a very quiet night into a memorable one by helping spark a 20-6 run and essentially thwart any challenge that the Golden Griffins were going to throw at UNLV.
Hawkins was definitely the catalyst by scoring nine of those points during the span. The most memorable was an alley-oop attempt he tossed that just happened to go through the hoop, although he mentioned that it was designated for either Bennett or Birch to go up and get.
Showing his versatility, Hawkins also had a block, steal and offensive rebound over the deciding six minutes of action.
The incredible part of J-Hawk's night was that he did all his damage in the second half. This was one of his better stat lines of the year and they pretty much all occurred in the 14 minutes after halftime.