Connecticut's 2012-13 campaign won't end in the postseason, but it began with an impressive victory in Europe.
That has the Huskies back in the rankings at No. 23 as they return to Gampel Pavilion for coach Kevin Ollie's home debut Tuesday night against reigning America East champion Vermont.
UConn is ineligible for the Big East and NCAA tournaments this season for academic reasons, but that may not stop the team from being a force in the regular season.
Michigan State can vouch for that after the then-No. 14 Spartans lost 66-62 to the Huskies in a hangar on the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday.
"You could say it's a statement win, just to show everyone that we're a hard-working team," junior guard Shabazz Napier said. "That's about it. We're not going to really dwell on this win. We'll have fun with it for a little while, but we have Vermont coming up. We're not going to sit on our success because that's not good for us."
Napier was plenty successful with 25 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He headlines a strong backcourt even though Jeremy Lamb left early for the NBA, with Ryan Boatright adding 13 points, four assists and five steals against the Spartans.
UConn has more uncertainty up front after Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith transferred and Andre Drummond jumped to the pros, but forward DeAndre Daniels had 12 points and eight rebounds in Germany and Tyler Olander blocked four shots.
"Tyler works so hard and doesn't get recognized," Napier said. "He was tremendous today. He works hard and I think he's going to shock a lot of people this year."
Ollie has a lot at stake this season, having been hired on a one-year deal to replace the retired Jim Calhoun. Calhoun attended the opener, working as a radio commentator.
"He's always been by my side and I appreciate him so much," Ollie said. "He told me don't lay on this, build on it and continue to make them play hard. It's a great win for our program, for the new era. A lot of people could have quit but they stayed here for what Coach Calhoun built."
UConn should have a good opportunity to pick up another win Tuesday before heading to the U.S. Virgin Islands for this weekend's Paradise Jam.
The Huskies have won 46 of 54 all-time meetings with Vermont, including the last six. The Catamounts led at halftime in Hartford on Nov. 17, 2010, but eventually fell victim to Kemba Walker's 42 points in an 89-73 defeat.
Vermont, which won its season opener 54-53 at Siena on Friday thanks to Sandro Carissimo's layup with eight seconds left, was picked by the America East coaches to win another conference title after coach John Becker led the Catamounts to the NCAA tournament in his first season in 2011-12. They beat Lamar in an opening-round game before losing 77-58 to North Carolina.
Junior forward Luke Apfeld led Vermont with 16 points against Siena.
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