HERSHEY, Pa. -- Donyell Marshall didn't disappoint yesterday, but the crowd and Towson State did.
Marshall was a playground hero in Reading, 50 miles east of here, before becoming Connecticut's leader and one of the top players in the Big East Conference. The Huskies showcased him at the Hersheypark Arena in their opener, a 107-67 blowout of the Tigers before 2,410.
It was the third time in six years that the Tigers had come here to accommodate a product of the region. They were handled by Jeff Lebo and North Carolina in 1988 and scared Syracuse and Billy Owens in 1990, games that drew good crowds to see those former Carlisle standouts.
Those who went to malls to shop or to the den to watch football missed a dynamic performance by Marshall and a meek one by Towson State. The 6-foot-9 junior forward, whose junior and senior seasons of high school ended in losses here, collected a career-high 31 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots. He started tentatively at the offensive end, before terrorizing the Tigers inside and hitting three straight three-pointers in the second half.
Towson State was ambushed for the second straight year by Connecticut's full-court pressure, which forced 17 turnovers in the first half and led to many easy baskets for the Huskies, who made 67.2 percent (43 of 64) of their field-goal attempts.
It was the second straight poor effort from the Tigers, who 10 days ago provided the first upset of the season by winning at St. John's in the Preseason NIT. Towson crumbled under Massachusetts' pressure in the second round of the NIT, and endured a reprise yesterday.
"We didn't attack Connecticut's pressure, they attacked us," Towson State coach Terry Truax said. "They played with a lot of energy and aggressiveness and enthusiasm, and that's something our team has to learn to do every time out. We got pushed around, and we need to learn to push back."
It was only the fourth time in Truax's 11 seasons at Towson State that it was beaten by 40 points. The others came in his first game with the Tigers, at Virginia Tech in 1983; a 53-point shelling at Maryland the next year; and a 42-point loss at Oklahoma last year.
The Tigers set a school record with 34 turnovers in that 115-73 setback at Oklahoma, and started against Connecticut as if determined to erase that mark. Towson State fell behind 8-0, briefly righted itself to take an 11-10 lead, and was within 18-15 when Connecticut's trapping defense became too much.
In less than three minutes, the Huskies' mugging of the Tigers resulted in four steals that fueled a decisive 13-0 run. The spread reached 49-26 at the half, and while the Tigers were better able to run their offense in the second half, the damage had long since been done.
"This should be a lesson about sticking with pressure," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "Even when it's not working, you keep it on, because it's going to wear the other guy down."
Connecticut, which wanted to avoid the Free State upset bug that saw Big East brethren St. John's and Georgetown fall to Towson State and Maryland, respectively, was hardly reliant on Marshall. His fellow forward, Donny Marshall, was given carte blanche near the basket, and made all seven of his shots for 15 points.
The Huskies kept the ball away from junior guard Scooter Alexander, who nonetheless led Towson State with 13 points and passed the 1,000 mark with a free throw in the first half of his 60th college game.
"We don't have to get into the other team's tempo," Alexander said, "but we definitely have to get into physical play if that's what they're going to do."
TOWSON STATE -- Campbell 4-10 0-1 10, S.Thomas 5-7 1-4 11, James 2-5 1-2 5, Alexander 4-10 5-6 13, Moody 3-5 0-1 6, Blalock 2-5 3-4 8, Robinson 1-3 1-2 3, Schneider 0-0 0-0, Caldwell 0-0 0-0 0, Mason 2-4 0-0 4, Keyes 1-1 0-0 2, Manning 0-0 0-0 0, Crump 2-4 1-2 5. Totals 26-54 12-22 67.
CONNECTICUT -- Donny Marshall 7-7 1-3 15, Donyell Marshall 11-21 4-6 31, Knight 1-2 1-2 3, Sheffer 6-7 0-2 12, Ollie 5-7 0-0 10, Willingham 1-1 2-2 4, M.Thomas 0-1 1-2 1, Johnson 0-2 1-2 1, Fair 4-6 0-0 11, King 4-5 0-0 8, Allen 4-5 2-2 11, Hayward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 43-64 14-21 107.
Halftime--Connecticut, 49-26. 3-point goals--TS 3-4 (Campbell 2-3, Blalock 1-1); C 7-9 (Fair 3-3, Donyell Marshall 3-4, Allen 1-1, Sheffer 0-1). Fouled out--None. Rebounds--TS 30 (S.Thomas 5), Connecticut 36 (Donyell Marshall 11). Assists--TS 14 (Alexander 5); C 23 (Sheffer 8). Total fouls--TS 16, C 18. A--2,410.