STORRS, Conn. -- Shabazz Napier scored 13 points and freshman Omar Calhoun added 12 to lead No. 23 Connecticut to a 67-49 win over Vermont on Tuesday night.
Holy Cross transfer R.J. Evans added 11 points and Tyler Olander had nine points and nine rebounds for UConn (2-0), which was playing its home opener after returning from Germany and an upset win over Michigan State last Friday in the Armed Forces Classic.
Luke Apfeld led Vermont (1-1) with nine points.
But it was UConn’s smothering defense that was the difference in this one.
The Huskies held Vermont to 30 percent shooting and just 15 baskets after limiting the Spartans to 37.5 percent on Friday. Vermont had no fast-break points.
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 Vermont 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.
UConn used its tough defense to regain control. They went on a 12-4 run to take a 27-17 lead and led 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.
Connecticut’s season-opening 66-62 win over the Spartans propelled the Huskies into The Associated Press 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, the defending American East Champions, are favored to win that conference again and have won 20 games nine times over the past 11 seasons.
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 games the teams have played. They last played in 2010, when Kemba Walker scored 42 points to lead the Huskies to an 89-73 win.
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.
The Huskies, who finished last season a disappointing 20-14 a year after winning the program’s third national title, were picked to finish ninth in the Big East this season and are academically ineligible for the Big East and NCAA tournaments.
UConn has won its first game of the season in Gampel Pavilion every year since the on-campus facility opened in 1990.