The big-time reputation of Texas' freshmen clearly motivated the Vols' rookies. That was particularly true of Chism and Crews, who combined for 34 points and 16 rebounds.
"They've got some pride," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "This was their opportunity to prove they belong (in the elite class)."
That was obvious from their post-game comments. Crews said Tennessee's rookies are "among the best freshmen in the country," adding: "We proved that in high school. We didn't get into the McDonald's (All-America) game, OK, so we've got to take that and run with it.... When we went out there today, it was all about competing."
Chism admitted feeling considerable incentive to prove himself against the heralded Texas rookies, several of whom got to play in last spring's McDonald's all-star event.
"That's what every kids hopes for," he said. "I got chosen (for A-A recognition); I just didn't get to play in the game."
Asked if he watched the game on TV, Chism smiled and said, "No. I didn't watch it 'cause I was too mad."
That anger resurfaced Saturday afternoon, as Chism played by far his best game as a Vol. So did Crews. So did Ramar Smith.
Lofton was far from his best, hitting just 8 of 24 shots, but he was fantastic in the clutch. With Texas leading 87-82, he drained back-to-back 3-pointers at the 1:05 and 18-second marks to put the Vols on top 88-87. The second 3 was probably a 30-footer.
Lofton conceded that the shot was the "longest I ever tried in college," adding: "It would've been a bad shot if I had missed it."
Pearl wasn't surprised that Lofton took the shot ... or that he made it.
"If he can see it he can make it," the Vol coach said. "He's an amazing weapon."
A Ramar Smith free throw boosted Tennessee's lead to 89-87 with 9.1 seconds left in regulation but 6-9 Texas freshman sensation Kevin Durant banked home a five-footer with 1.1 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
Lofton hit another 3 to open the extra period, then Tennessee's fired-up freshmen took over. Crews dunked off a nifty pass from Smith, and Chism nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing as the Vols went up 97-91. Chism added a 5-footer and Smith a putback as the lead swelled to 101-93. Smith made a couple of free throws, then Chism scored inside, giving the Vols a 105-97 lead with just 54 seconds to play.
The Longhorns wouldn't go away, however, narrowing the gap to 106-103 with 28 seconds left. Tennessee responded by twice inbounding the ball to Lofton, who hit four of four free throws in the final 27 seconds to help the Vols (10-2) seal their sixth win in a row.
Durant scored 26 points to pace Texas, now 8-3. D.J. Augustin, another participant in last spring's McDonald's All-America Game, added 20 points and 13 assists but committed 7 of the Longhorns' 11 turnovers.
Ultimately, Tennessee won with balance. Eight Vols scored and five of them produced 16 points or more. That had Pearl beaming.
"I talk a lot about having 'too many weapons,'" the coach said. "This team had a lot of dimensions today."