Pearl's response? "Jordan had four assists? Wow!"
Childress' performance may have been even more encouraging. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound freshman drained a 3-pointer shortly after coming off the bench, boosting Tennessee's lead to 36-27 late in the first half. That trey proved to be the difference as the Vols went to intermission with a 39-36 lead. Childress also did a good job banging the boards and playing under control during his relief stint.
"Ryan Childress makes a big 3, gets a big offensive rebound and doesn't turn it over," Pearl noted on his post-game radio show. "That's what has to happen in order for you to do something special like this."
Childress made another strong showing three days earlier against Ole Miss, recording 2 points, 3 rebounds (all off the offensive glass) and a steal in 7 strong minutes. He also came up ready to fight after crashing to the floor in a loose-ball scramble with 6-8, 290-pound Rebel bruiser Dwayne Curtis. Clearly, Childress brings a hard-nosed dimension to this Tennessee team.
"That's what we brought him in for," Pearl said. "It's great that he's playing a role. It's tough to be a freshman in this league and on this team. He didn't come in as part of a big class and he came in late, yet he's been asked to get out there. Three offensive rebounds … that's just effort."
Childress' aggressive and productive play against Ole Miss and Kentucky suggests he may be able to contribute on a regular basis as Tennessee's season heads down the home stretch. That would be a huge plus.
"It's good to see he's got that kind of heart and toughness," Pearl said. "We'll build on that."