Respect, as the old saying goes, is not given, it's earned. This is especially true when you're a college basketball team who doesn't play in a so-called "major conference."
On Sunday night in Anaheim, California, UNLV of the Mountain West Conference didn't just earn that respect, they seized it.
Led by tournament MVP Chace Stanback's 17 points, the Rebels not only seized some well deserved national respect, they also seized the championship trophy of the 76 Classic, defeating Virginia Tech of the ACC 71-59.
Last season, during the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii, the Rebels found themselves facing an eerily similar scenario to Sunday night. Nearly a year ago, after defeating a pair of smaller conference schools to reach the title game, the Rebels were ambushed by a bigger, more physical USC squad.
UNLV's depth, athleticism, and experience made certain that a repeat of that performance would not take place.
The Rebels frenetic, full court pressure defense, which forced the Hokies into 18 turnovers, helped UNLV overcome a white hot shooting performance by Virginia Tech senior guard Malcolm Delaney. Delaney, the ACC's leading scorer, scored a season high 30 points including 7 out of 9 from 3-point range.
Quintrell Thomas, plagued by foul trouble issues early in the season, played his best game as a Rebel, scoring a career high 14 points on 6 out of 7 shooting. Senior guard Tre'von Willis, playing in just his fourth game after serving an early season suspension, also added 14.
The Runnin' Rebels, now 6-0 on the season, will likely find themselves on the receiving end of even more respect come Monday morning when the latest top 25 polls are released.