"How about Duke Crews coming to me at shoot-around and telling me that, if it's OK with me, it's OK with him that Wayne Chism starts?" Pearl asked. "He knew it would mean a lot to him. That's when you get a team coming together … with that kind of unselfishness."
Asked about the selfless gesture after the game, Crews insisted he had done nothing special. He was simply helping a teammate.
"Wayne's from the Memphis area. He and Willie Kemp played on the same high school team, and he had a whole lot of his family members here," Crews noted. "I just gave him the opportunity (to start). He would do the same thing for me if I was going back to my area (Hampton, Va.) to play.
"It really wasn't a big deal. We still split our minutes and we were productive."
Crews proved even more productive coming off the bench than he had been as a starter. He finished with 9 points and team highs for rebounds (10) and blocks (3) in 21 impressive minutes. Chism, apparently pressing a bit in his first career start, sank just 1 of 6 from the floor but grabbed 5 rebounds in 19 minutes.
Crews' request that Chism start Wednesday night didn't surprise Pearl but it shocked Vol senior Dane Bradshaw.
"That was huge," he said. "But, to be honest, I was surprised by that because Duke is such a competitor I know he wants to start in a nationally televised game…. For him to give that up to his buddy Wayne in front of his family and friends is great."