Asked about his emotional performance, Duke Crews smiled sheepishly.
"It was a big game," he said. "Coach asked us to step up. We've got a lot of young people and a lot of first-timers. For some of us, this was the biggest game we ever played in."
Although he packs 233 pounds of muscle on a 6-7 frame, Crews was somewhat dwarfed by 6-9, 260-pound Memphis standout Joey Dorsey. Crews did a terrific job guarding Dorsey, however, limiting him to 0-of-3 shooting, while forcing him to commit 3 turnovers and 5 fouls in just 15 minutes of action. It appeared that Crews got under Dorsey's skin and frustrated him.
"I just played hard," Crews said. "He talked, I talked. I went at him the same way he was going at me. It was a battle of words, and I got caught (on the technical foul)."
Crews clearly came up big last Wednesday. Before the game he went to head coach Bruce Pearl and requested that his starting spot go to teammate Wayne Chism, who grew up in the Memphis area and had many family members in attendance. When Crews got in the game, though, he starred. The Hampton, Va., native contributed 10 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 21 sterling minutes of play. And, as noted previously, he really shut down the talented Dorsey.
"Duke's a tough guy, and he showed that," Pearl said. "There was some battling going on out there. Duke showed me what he showed me at the Nike Camp (prior to his senior season). For him to step up as a true freshman like that showed me courage. And for him to do the things he did before the game ... what character!"
Although Crews has Slay-type intensity and Slay-type emotion, he seems to lack Slay's gift of gab. The Vol freshman offered a pretty basic response when asked about the magnitude of the Memphis game.
"We knew this was a game we were capable of winning," he said. "We went in and executed our game plan and came out on top."