Missed layups

The University of Tennessee's freshman post players may not be as polished as the 2005-06 inside duo of Major Wingate and Andre Patterson but, statistically at least, the rookies are more aggressive.

Despite their inexperience, Duke Crews and Wayne Chism are taking the ball to the hoop a lot. As a result, they're shooting as many field goals per game and MORE free throws per game this season than Wingate and Patterson did last season.

Through the first eight games of 2006-07, Crews has attempted 58 floor shots and 31 foul shots. That's an average of 7.2 field-goal tries and 3.9 free-throw tries per game. Chism has attempted 65 field goals and 34 free throws, which breaks down to averages of 8.1 and 4.2 per game. As a duo, the two rookies are averaging 15.3 field-goal tries and 8.1 free-throw tries per game.

By comparison, Patterson attempted 7.9 field goals and 2.8 foul shots per game last year, while Wingate checked in at 7.5 and 3.5. Thus, last year's post duo averaged a combined 15.4 field-goal attempts but just 6.3 free-throw attempts per game.

The only area in which Crews and Chism are falling shy of Wingate and Patterson is in terms of shooting percentages. Wingate and Patterson combined to sink 51.6 percent from the field and 63.1 percent from the foul line last year. Chism and Crews are combining to sink 42.3 percent from the field and 55.4 percent from the line.

The field-goal numbers are especially puzzling. Despite shooting mostly from point-blank range, Crews is hitting a so-so 48.3 percent (28 of 58). Chism, who is shooting just 36.9 percent overall, is proving more accurate from 3-point range (42.8 percent) than he is from around the bucket (34.1 percent).

Although head coach Bruce Pearl concedes that the two rookies "need to finish more," he says scoring inside isn't as easy as it may appear from courtside.

"They're not easy shots," he said. "There's a lot of contact. And they do go to the foul line a lot. Look at the number of free throws Duke and Wayne have shot, compared to Andre and Major. They go to the line more than those guys, and that's a good sign."

Pearl suggests that added physical maturity will enable Crews and Chism to make some shots next year that they're missing this year.

"Duke and Wayne are strong," the head man said. "But give (conditioning coach) Troy Willis a couple of years with them, and you talk about being able to elevate and finish ..."

Crews made 4 of 9 field-goal tries Friday night vs. Murray State, while Chism was 3 of 9. Still, Crews isn't ready to panic because he and Chism are shooting less than 50 percent each from the floor.

"Everybody's going to miss shots; we missed our fair share," he said. "But some nights you're hitting everything you put up and some nights you're not.

"The thing I'm most proud of – me and Wayne both – is that through all the misses we didn't hang our heads. We got finishes, we got fouls and we got to the line. I think we had a productive night overall."

The numbers suggest as much. Chism finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Crews chipped in 12 points and 5 rebounds.

"Coach Pearl always says that, one through five, we might not be better than the opponent, but both of us have to outplay the other team's 5," Crews said. "With 25 points and 14 rebounds, I think we outplayed their 5."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories