Pearl toasts the posts

The preseason dismissal of 6-10 senior Major Wingate undoubtedly cost Tennessee's basketball team in terms of size and experience. Still, he never produced the kind of numbers his replacements did Sunday against Coppin State.

Freshmen Wayne Chism (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Duke Crews (13 points, 6 rebounds) combined for 24 points and 17 rebounds as the Vols romped 99-65. So, who needs Major Wingate?

"We got great play out of the center position tonight," head coach Bruce Pearl noted. "When you get 24 points, 17 rebounds and 1 turnover at the 5 from two freshmen that's exciting."

Asked if he is getting a little more from the duo than expected, Pearl replied: "Yeah. They played against some good big kids in Nashville (Rounds 1 and 2 of the NIT Tip-off Tournament). We've not seen an SEC big (man) but they've played well … when you put up the kind of numbers Wayne and Duke have put up."

Originally, Pearl planned for the 6-9 Chism to play power forward and the 6-8 Crews to play small forward. Wingate's dismissal changed that plan, however, forcing both freshmen to assume the post position. Both have a lot of talent but both have a lot to learn.

"I'm on Wayne and Duke as much as I'm on anybody," Pearl said, "because I know how good they are."

After posting his first collegiate double-double in his fourth collegiate game, Chism admitted the accomplishment was "hard to come by. Coach told me at halftime I had seven rebounds and to keep rebounding. Me coming out and getting 11 points was very hard."

It's not nearly so hard when you get those points three at a time, as Chism did against Coppin State. The rangy rookie stepped outside and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 14:38 left, then bagged a trey from the left wing with 13:35 to go. Fans gasped. Pearl grinned.

"When Wayne makes 3s people, say ‘Oooooh!'" Pearl said with a chuckle. "Wayne can makes 3s. He can do that. I'm working with him on when those are good shots and when they're not."

Chism said the 3-pointers weren't his idea so much as Pearl's.

"I came down in transition and I was looking to pass," he recalled. "Coach was like, ‘Shoot the ball if you're open.'"

Chism hit dozens of 3-pointers during his days at Bolivar Central High School. Most of them – as was the case Sunday – were unguarded.

"Most teams are going to sag off; they think big men can't shoot," Chism said. "Some teams will play for me a shooter and some will play me for a post. They (Eagles) came out playing me as a post, so I came out and shot a couple."

Chism does not mind splitting time with Crews, especially since the two of them are proving to be such a potent 1-2 punch.

"It's not a problem," he said. "It's a situation where you can keep the transition going if you keep fresh people in, especially in the post because we're battling hard against bigger players. Sometimes you get tired pretty quick, so we've got to rotate in quick."

Senior forward Dane Bradshaw is amazed at how quickly the freshman posts are progressing.

"They're great," he said. "Coach is hard on Wayne and Duke because he knows how good they can be. If you combine the potential and athleticism they have, along with focus and determination, that's what makes great players great."

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