The Catamounts (12-6, 5-1) have a half-game edge over Albany and the Seawolves (13-5, 4-1), whom they defeated in last season's conference tournament final.
Rusin scored eight points during a 12-0 run early in the second half that gave Vermont a 44-29 advantage.
Stony Brook, after trailing by as many as 18 points, got to within four, 65-61 with 2:48 left, after a dunk by Tommy Brenton. But Sandro Carissimo responded with a layup and two free throws on Vermont's next two possessions for an eight-point lead.
Brian Voelkel had six assists for Vermont, giving him 405 for his career.
The second annual Gavitt Tipoff Games, eight games between members of the Big East and Big Ten to be played Nov. 14-18, will feature Villanova at Purdue in the opener.
Michael Lewis is leaving his assistant coaching job at Butler to take the same position at Nebraska under Tim Miles.
College basketball fans should be excited about next season's Jimmy V Classic, an event that will feature Duke's heralded freshman class.