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Rebels’ hot start gets noticed with poll ranking

When numbers are placed to the left of a team’s name, each game takes on a little more meaning. UNLV became a top-25 team Monday, and sophomore guard Anthony Marshall said he’s certain future opponents will take notice.

"All the ranking really means is that you’ve got a bigger target on your back," Marshall said.

The Rebels (6-0) checked in at No. 23 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and No. 24 in the Associated Press poll. It’s the second straight year UNLV has entered the rankings in late November.

National recognition arrived one day after the Rebels defeated Virginia Tech 71-59 in the championship of the 76 Classic at Anaheim, Calif. The Hokies are one of the top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Junior forward Chace Stanback, named Most Outstanding Player of the eight-team tournament, shared Mountain West Conference Player of the Week honors with Brigham Young’s Jimmer Fredette.

Stanback averaged 17 points and 4.3 rebounds in UNLV’s victories over Virginia Tech, Murray State and Tulsa.

The Rebels rolled through the tourney in Anaheim after beating Wisconsin 68-65 on Nov. 20.

"People out there know that Murray State won 31 games last year and got all those guys back, and they know how good Virginia Tech is supposed to be in the ACC. I think it got some folks’ attention," coach Lon Kruger said.

"The ranking doesn’t mean too much in the end, but it’s an indication of making progress and the guys playing well. It’s fun for the fans to talk about. Based on the calls we’re getting and the responses we’re getting, whether it be recruiting or just friends around the country, a lot of people took note."

After knocking off ACC and Big Ten opponents, a ranked UNLV team hits the road for a Wednesday game at Illinois State (5-1) as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.

"We can’t be satisfied," Marshall said. "Rankings really don’t mean anything. As soon as you step on the court, it’s anybody’s game."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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