Ramstein, Germany – Shabazz Napier scored 25 points to help make Kevin Ollie's head coaching debut a success as the Connecticut Huskies bested the 14th-ranked Michigan State Spartans, 66-62, in the Armed Forces Classic.
The game was played on a makeshift court in a converted airplane hangar at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany and signaled the beginning of a new era for the Huskies (1-0).
Ollie took over for Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun, who retired after guiding the Connecticut program for 26 years.
"We executed the game plan and the game plan was to play hard. We stepped up to the plate, we took the challenge and we came up with a victory," Ollie said.
Keith Appling scored 17 points to pace Michigan State (0-1).
"We did a very poor job of rotating players," Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said
Down by as many as 16 in the first half, the Spartans grabbed a 58-56 lead when Appling completed a three-point play after being fouled on a layup with 5:43 remaining. Napier answered with a 3-pointer and Ryan Boatright knocked down a trey to put the Huskies up 62-58.
After pulling Michigan State within 62-60, Denzel Valentine missed a shot with about a minute remaining that would have tied the game. Appling was also off the mark before Napier sank four free throws in the final 13 seconds to seal the win.
The teams donned camouflage uniforms in honor of Veterans Day and there was no disguising which team got off to a better start. UConn made 11 of its first 12 shots and with the help of a smothering defense, led 34-18 with just under eight minutes remaining.
But the Spartans used a 10-0 run to draw to within five before Tyler Olander closed out the first-half scoring with a layup, giving UConn a 40-33 lead at the break.
UConn's roster features three German players. Junior Niels Giffey and freshman Leon Tolksdorf hail from Berlin, and junior Enosch Wolf is a native of Goettingen ... The Spartans opened last season against North Carolina in the inaugural Carrier Classic. The game was played on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in California ... UConn was 22-4 in season openers under Calhoun ... Boatright had 13 points, five steals and four assists ... Branden Dawson contributed 15 points, 10 rebounds and five steals for Michigan State ... The Huskies shot 46.3 percent (25-of-54) from the floor while limiting the Spartans to 37.5 percent shooting (24-of-64) ... Michigan State owned a 43-29 rebounding advantage.