Monday, February 4, 2013
Birch is key for UNLV
By Matt Giles
Just when it appeared that UNLV was on a roll in Mountain West play, having bested Wyoming and Nevada, the Rebels fell to Boise State in a contest where Leon Rice's squad scored 1.10 points per possession. Khem Birch, a forward who had finally started to play with more consistency and defensive effort, was MIA during the Boise State loss -- playing just 17 minutes, he scored four points and grabbed three boards.
Described by Mike Grimala of RunRebs.com as 'nearly invisible', Birch did suffer from foul trouble but he has shown the ability to control a game with his superb athleticism and timing on the defensive side of the ball. Birch may be the Rebels' best interior defender, someone capable of delivering a massive block from the weak side, and though he does not have many consistent post moves, he is so hard to contain because of his length and quick elevation. However, it was clear that Birch became frustrated with the early fouls and was tentative in the second half, a trait that will need to quickly change if the Rebels are going to truly contend for the MWC title.
At the season's tip, it was unthinkable that Colorado State and Air Force would be tied for second in the MWC, with UNLV and San Diego State sitting in fourth place, each saddled with three losses, but as we have written on countless occasions, the MWC may be the best high major conference this season. Birch needs to be more of a factor for the Rebels to ascend up the rankings in February.