Khem Birch may not have been at UNLV for very long, but the big man from Montreal put up his share of outstanding performances in his one-and-a-half seasons in the desert. Now that he’s moving on, let’s attempt to rank Birch’s best games as a Rebel:
1. March 8, 2014 at Nevada-Reno (L, 76-72)
Stats: 15 points, 22 rebounds, 4 blocks
Performance: The final regular-season game of Birch’s career was also his best game in scarlet and gray. The Rebels went into Reno shorthanded, missing key starters Roscoe Smith (concussion) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (suspension), and Birch wasn’t in much better shape–he was a game-time decision due to a painful hip injury. But he powered through and almost single-handedly carried UNLV to victory, playing 33 minutes and setting a career high with 22 rebounds.
Game story: Nevada-Reno 76, UNLV 72
2. Jan. 25, 2014 vs. Fresno State (W, 75-73 OT)
Stats: 19 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks
Performance: Birch turned in one of his finest offensive efforts in this game, but as usual, his biggest impact came on the defensive end. He played much of the second half as the only big man on the floor for the Rebels, as Dave Rice attempted to counter Fresno State’s small lineup, and with the Rebels clinging to a two-point lead with seconds left in overtime, Birch blocked a layup attempt by Fresno State’s Cezar Guerrero to seal the victory for UNLV.
Game story: UNLV 75, Fresno State 73 (OT)
3. Feb. 1, 2014 vs. Boise State (W, 73-69)
Stats: 15 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks
Performance: Rebels fans will remember this as the game UNLV came back from an 11-point deficit with less than four minutes to play, capped by Kevin Olekaibe’s go-ahead 3-pointer in the final seconds. But Birch was instrumental to the comeback effort as well, hitting clutch free throws late in the game and playing his usual stellar defense. In the 34 minutes Birch was on the court, UNLV outscored Boise State by nine points.
Game story: UNLV 73, Boise state 69
4. Jan. 16, 2013 at San Diego State (W, 82-75)
Stats: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 blocks
Performance: Playing on the road in front of one of the most hostile crowds in the nation, Birch helped deliver perhaps the best conference win of the Dave Rice era by leading the Rebels past San Diego State at Viejas Arena. Rice made the gutsy decision to bench freshman phenom Anthony Bennett for the final three minutes, and Birch’s presence in the middle of a small-ball lineup made the difference as UNLV pulled away for the victory. Birch endeared himself to Rebels fans forever by holding his finger to his lips to silence the SDSU student section in the final seconds.
Game story: UNLV 82, San Diego State 75
5. Feb. 15, 2014 at Utah State (W, 73-62)
Stats: 11 points, 12 rebounds, 9 blocks
Performance: Birch was everywhere in this contest, nearly notching a triple-double and leading the Rebels to a road win that was much-needed at the time. Despite attempting just six field goals, Birch dominated the game by playing above the rim, throwing down several highlight-reel dunks and rejecting a career-high nine shots. His individual plus/minus of +14 was his second-best mark of the Mountain West season.
Game story: UNLV 73, Utah State 62
6. Dec. 22, 2012 vs. Canisius (W, 89-74)
Stats: 20 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks
Performance: This was just Birch’s third game at UNLV after he became eligible following his midseason transfer from Pitt, and this is when he announced that he was going to be an impact player for the Rebels. In only 29 minutes, Birch made 7-of-8 field goal attempts and blocked six shots, showcasing the athletic ability around the rim that would become his trademark. Amazingly enough, this was the only time Birch scored 20 points in his college career.
Game story: UNLV 89, Canisius 74
7. Feb. 23, 2013 at Wyoming (W, 65-42)
Stats: 12 points, 14 rebounds, 1 block
Performance: UNLV came into this one having lost four consecutive road games, and things got even worse for the Rebels when Anthony Bennett left the contest after just four minutes due to a shoulder injury. But instead of letting things go south, Birch rallied the troops with a powerful all-around effort, notching his first Mountain West double-double in 32 minutes.
Game story: UNLV 65, Wyoming 42
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