Groans turn to cheers

Two minutes into the overtime of Saturday's game against Texas, 6-foot-9 Tennessee freshman Wayne Chism unloaded a 3-point try from the left wing that brought an audible groan from 20,000-plus Vol fans.

They didn't expect anyone to take a 3-pointer so early in the shot clock. They didn't expect a freshman to attempt such a crucial basket under such tense circumstances. And they CERTAINLY didn't expect a post player to launch from long range.

Of course, the visiting Longhorns didn't expect it, either. That's why Chism was unguarded 20 feet from the basket. That's why he fired the shot that brought a gasp from the crowd. The gasp turned into a roar, however, when the ball swished through the net, giving the Vols a 97-91 lead en route to a 111-105 victory.

Bruce Pearl was not surprised that Chism took the shot, nor was he surprised he made it. The Bolivar native is 11 of 29 (37.9 percent) beyond the arc this year, and has his coach's permission to shoot from outside when the opportunity presents itself.

"It was a wide-open shot, and he can make those shots," Pearl said.

Not every outside shot is a bad shot, and not every inside shot is a good shot. The coach thought Chism forced some close-in shots in the first half that were a lot more difficult than his 3-point bomb in overtime.

"He took some bad shots in the first half," Pearl recalled. "I told him, 'You don't have to shoot every time you touch it.' He was frustrated because he wasn't getting many touches."

The coach's criticism could've caused the rookie to lose his aggressiveness, but it didn't. Chism continued to look for his shot in the second half. Pearl thought that was a very encouraging development.

"The fact I said that didn't shut him up (offensively)," the coach said. "That's the difference. If I had said that to Wayne a month ago, he might have never even looked at that (3-point) shot. But he was wide open. He was in the flow of transition."

The dramatic trey wasn't Chism's only contribution to Saturday's big win. He scored two more buckets in overtime, including a short jumper with 54 seconds left that widened the gap to 105-97 and basically sealed the victory.

Playing by far his best game as a Vol, Chism finished 7 of 9 from the floor, with a career-high 18 points and 8 rebounds in 24 stellar minutes. Naturally, Pearl was thrilled with the freshman's all-around performance.

"You see Wayne Chism make offensive and defensive plays," the coach noted. "He makes a 3-point shot, he drives the lane, he finishes in transition, he moves his feet defensively and he dominates the boards.

"He's going to be a great player."

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