By DOM AMORE, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
9:59 PM EST, November 13, 2012
The Huskies held up their end. No jet lag, no letdown, no excuses.
They just punched in and conducted business rather briskly on Tuesday night, beating Vermont 67-49 before 7,963 in their home opener at Gampel Pavilion.
"This was a grind-it-out game," said coach Kevin Ollie, who has won his first two games as head coach. "I wasn't subscribing to the excuses, jet lag, coming back from Germany – no. We're subscribing to playing basketball the right way."
The Huskies were coming off their emotional upset victory over Michigan State in the Armed Forces Classic in Germany. Their flight home was roughly 4,000 miles and across six time zones, but they prepared diligently and, after holding up the trophy they earned in Germany for their fans to savor, they took the Catamounts apart methodically, pulling ahead from a 7-7 tie early in the game and widening their lead from there. They opened a 20-point lead on a fast-break basket, Ryan Boatright passing behind his back to DeAndre Daniels for a mix-tape slam with 9 minutes, 39 seconds left, capping a 17-to-5 UConn spurt.
"This was an effort game," said Tyler Olander, who had nine points, nine rebounds, four blocks and four assists. "It was a focus game. We paid attention to details, to the little things."
Vermont crept back late, getting as close as 12, but UConn steadied and put it away. Now the Huskies prepare for another long trip, to the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they will begin the Paradise Jam with a game against Wake Forest on Friday night.
"We're going to win the Connecticut way," Ollie said. "Defense first, then we'll go on the fast break. And we're going to rebound better."
The Huskies' defense smothered Vermont, holding them to 30 percent shooting from the floor, forcing 16 turnovers, with nine steals, blocking seven shots. The only drawback was on the boards, where UConn was out-rebounded (39-31), as they were against Michigan State.
"They're real physical," Vermont coach John Becker said. "It's hard to get anywhere [on offense]. It seems like you're bumping into people all over the place out there."
Shabazz Napier scored 13 points, all in the second half, and Omar Calhoun scored 12, including 11 in the first half. Grad student R.J. Evans, who put the Huskies ahead for good with a basket early, again provided quality, meaningful minutes off the bench, scoring 11 points. Boatright had nine points and seven assists, as the Huskies had 14 assists on 25 baskets.
"We have a unique offense," Napier said, "because everybody can score."
The Huskies stopped Vermont in its first three possessions and opened up a 7-2 lead, then briefly went cold from the floor. Evans, who has provided a lift each time he has checked into a game, drove for a layup with 12:48 left in the half. After a Daniels' steal and dunk, UConn led 13-10 and Vermont called time, Ollie, animated, screaming as his players came off the court.
"We just played through every possession," Ollie said. "Our defense was great. To hold a team like this to [32 percent] is absolutely wonderful. They followed the game plan to a T. Boatright got it started with his pressure in the first half."
UConn led by nine at the half, but Napier, who had scored 25 against Michigan State, was scoreless and Ollie had a talk with him. Napier took over at that point, driving to the basket with authority, hitting two free throws to break into the scoring column 1:20 into the half and going from there.
"He played like the Shabazz we saw against Michigan State," OIlie said.
Ollie used more players in this game. Freshmen Phil Nolan and Leon Tolksdorf, who did not get in against MSU, were both on the court in the first half, reward for their hard work in practice, the coach said. Evans and Niels Giffey, who had four points, four rebounds and a steal in 19 minutes, also made effective contributions off the bench.
"We have a lot of depth," Napier said. "People don't always see that, but we can take our five starters out and put five different players in."
Vermont (1-1), defending America East champ, had no one in double figures, and made just three of 18 from three-point range. Ethan O'Day, their 6-9 freshman from E.O. Smith-Storrs, had four points and six rebounds in 21 minutes, getting into early foul trouble in his first college start.
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