ARTFORD — The UConn men's basketball team remains unbeaten, and the Huskies have won their first nine games in a variety of ways.

One thing, in particular, that has not worked for teams trying to beat the Huskies — or slow them for very long stretches — is the zone defense.

"Playing against zones so much last year, you eventually had to figure out how to beat it," Ryan Boatright said. "There was a time last year we were going into every game knowing we were going to see a lot of zones. We knew we'd see it a lot this year. Teams would give our backcourt a lot of attention, so we took it upon ourselves to find ways to break that zone."

Through the years, the zone defense has been a popular way to try to counteract UConn's traditional advantages in length and talent over its opponents. Playing in a conference, the old Big East, with Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Louisville's Rick Pitino, among others, the Huskies often saw the toughest zones out there, practiced by coaches who recruited players best suited to execute it. A scheme, of course, is only as good as the players employed.

Last season, Kevin Ollie's first as head coach, UConn's team was heavy on backcourt talent and thin up front. Opponents went to the zone early and often, and it was disruptive at times. In mid-January, Louisville, which also presses a lot, held UConn scoreless for 10 consecutive possessions in a comeback win at the XL Center. In February, UConn had a good night against the Syracuse zone, moving the ball side to side and hitting 8 three-pointers in 14 attempts, and pulled the upset — a highlight of their 20-10 season.

Coming into the 2012-13 season, UConn anticipated seeing a lot of zone — not only because the Huskies remain a team known for its guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, but because the new hand-check rules figured to prompt more coaches to go to the zone.

The Huskies have shown themselves ready for it, prepared to stretch it, identify the open three-point shooter and fire them off with conviction. Boston University played a lot of zone on Nov. 17, and slowed UConn for a while late in the first half, but the Huskies solved it in the second half and won 77-60, and Ollie was encouraged by that. Boston College followed suit on Nov. 21, with less success.

The Huskies made 11 of 24 threes against Florida, winning 65-64. Undermanned Maine tried to disrupt UConn with a lot of zone on Friday night, but the result was a barrage of three-point goals and a 95-68 Huskies rout, which included 14 made three-pointers in 25 attempts.

"That's all of us working together," Ollie said, "That's us getting to our spots, us executing and scoring over it. That's not just 'Bazz and Boat, it's guys setting screens. We set a lot of high screens, a lot of step-up screens against zones. That's by design, so our big guys are being selfless and taking themselves out of the play so our guards can get open. And, finally, we kind of came off that elbow screen and just pulled up [for short jump shots]. Sometimes, we get into thick of defense and we can do that."

What has always separated Syracuse's brand of zone defense from others is its ability to extend it, to have enough length and range to protect the middle and contest three-point shots. Most teams cannot do both, and the Huskies have capitalized.

"Any time anybody can get in lane, attract a lot of attention, you can kick it out," Boatright said. "We're taking the right shots."

That's where UConn's forwards, who might be called "stretch fours," have come in. Senior Niels Giffey, who made 10 of 34 three-point attempts last season, has already taken 27 this season and made 18. DeAndre Daniels, who was 21 for 68 last season, is 12 for 29, after going 3 for 3 against Maine. Daniels, 6-foot-9, can blow by defenders who stray out to contest him on the perimeter.

"We just spread the court, and we attack the middle," Daniels said. "With me playing the four, Niels playing the four, we can really stretch the defense in the zone because we can both shoot the ball. When teams go in zone, they try to stop Ryan and Shabazz. But they've got to worry about Omar [Calhoun], they've got to worry about Niels, they've got to worry about me. We have a lot of weapons. Everybody can do everything, they can put it on the floor and they can shoot."

UConn's effectiveness from three-point range, even while Calhoun went through a cold spell, has been the key. The Huskies took 18.7 three-point shots per game last season, and made 6.36. This season, they are taking a few more — 19.1 per game, and hitting 8.89. As a result, even against a much tougher non-conference schedule that has included Florida, Indiana and Maryland, the Huskies are averaging 78.1 points per game, vs. 69.9 last season,

The Huskies' next opponent, Stanford (6-2) on Dec. 18, plays a lot of zone. Opponents are shooting 41.8 percent against Stanford, including 36.2 percent on three-point shots, and averaging 73.8 points per game.

"We've got to keep working," Ollie said. "This was good for us, to see this much zone [against Maine]. We play a great opponent in Stanford, and they play 50 percent zone in some of the games we've watched."