Nov. 13, 2012
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STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Kevin Ollie wants his Connecticut teams to be known for effort and defense. So far, the Huskies are buying into their new coach's philosophy.
Shabazz Napier scored all of his 13 points in the second half, freshman Omar Calhoun added 12 and No. 23 UConn held Vermont to 30 percent shooting Tuesday night in a 67-49 win over the defending America East champions.
Defense stole the show for the Huskies (2-0), who limited Vermont (1-1) to just 15 baskets and no fast break points, four days after holding Michigan State to 37.5-percent shooting in an upset win over the Spartans in Germany.
"We stress defense a lot because we're not so big," said Calhoun. "We've got to play defense, and team defense wins games."
Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans hit all five of his shots and finished with 11 points, and Tyler Olander had nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks for the Huskies.
"We didn't have a guy that had 25 points," said Ollie. "But that shows that we can win in different ways."
Luke Apfeld led Vermont (1-1) with nine points and four other players had eight. The Catamounts hit just three of their 15 shots from 3-point range and were forced into 16 turnovers.
The Huskies used a 12-3 run to stretch a 39-29 lead to 19 points midway through the second half and cruised from there.
A behind the back pass from Ryan Boatright to DeAndre Daniels for a fast-break dunk made it 54-34 and gave the Huskies their biggest lead of the game.
UConn, which hit nine of its first 10 shots against Michigan State, made three of its first four against Vermont to jump out to an early 7-2 lead, while holding the Catamounts to just one bucket on eight shots.
But the Huskies cooled considerably from there. A 3-pointer by Trey Blue gave the Catamounts a 10-9 lead, but UConn used tough defense to regain control. The Huskies went on a 12-4 run to take a 27-17 lead and were up 32-23 at the half.
Vermont's Ethan O'Day, who played with UConn's Tyler Olander at nearby E.O. Smith High School, picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half. Despite being without their 6-foot-9 freshman, the Catamounts outrebounded UConn 39-32. Michigan State outrebounded the Huskies 43-29 on Friday and Ollie said that is his biggest concern.
"Defense is rebounding, it's ending the possession with a rebound," Ollie said. "So at the end of the day that 30 (percent shooting percentage for Vermont) could have been 20. I know I'm being greedy."
Calhoun, who didn't score Friday, is expected to be a big contributor on a team that returns just five players who had significant playing time last season. Five other underclassmen left the team in the offseason.
"I'm getting a better feeling for the game," he said. "I'm not anywhere near where I want to be yet, but I'm going to continue to get better as the season continues."
Connecticut's season-opening 66-62 win over the Spartans propelled the Huskies into The AP Top 25 for the first time since January.
The home opener was a brief travel respite for the Huskies, who logged 7,800 miles for their game in Germany against the Spartans. UConn is back on the road for the Paradise Jam tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands this weekend.
Vermont, favored to win its conference again this season, has won 20 games nine times over the past 11 years.
But they have rarely had an answer for the Huskies. UConn has won the last seven games in the series and 47 of the 55 the teams have played.
UConn has won its first game of the season in Gampel Pavilion every year since the on-campus facility opened in 1990, and the Huskies are 71-4 all-time against non-conference opponents in their on-campus arena.