Chism celebrates Crews' birthday

Freshman basketball player Duke Crews turned 19 on Saturday but it was Tennessee teammate Wayne Chism that did most of the celebrating during the Volunteers' hard-fought 64-61 defeat of South Carolina.

A host of relatives showed up at Thompson-Boling Arena to help Duke Crews celebrate his birthday. Apparently tense, he responded with one of his worst performances of the season – 6 points, 3 rebounds and 4 turnovers in a season-low 15 minutes.

Picking up the slack, though, was Wayne Chism, who hit 6 of 8 shots and produced a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in a season-high 25 minutes.

Head coach Bruce Pearl admitted after the game that he was reluctant to reduce Crews' minutes with a family that "doesn't get to see him play very often" in the stands. The coach said playing Crews just five second-half minutes could be traced to "the fact Wayne was playing so well.

"Duke understood that. He was wanting to play well but, obviously, you've got to go in those situations with the hot hand."

Certainly, Chism can relate. A bunch of his friends and family members showed up to watch him face Memphis on Dec. 6. Chism even got to start that night but he pressed and wound up playing poorly. He made just 1 of 6 from the field and finished with 3 points, 5 rebounds and 2 turnovers. Crews, meanwhile, came off the bench to pick up the slack - producing 9 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 21 impressive minutes.

To recap: When Chism's family was visiting he played poorly and Crews starred. When Crews' family was visiting he played poorly and Chism starred. There must be a message there somewhere.

Chism's performance against South Carolina may have been the 6-9 freshman's best of the year. He crashed the boards, worked hard on defense and did a good job finishing his shots. Four of his six baskets came on dunks.

"When Duke dunked (on Tennessee's first possession of the game), I thought, ‘I might have to try that, too,'" Crews said, grinning broadly. "I tried it, too, and that kept me going through the whole game."

Pearl believes Chism has the talent to be an exceptional player someday.

"Obviously, you recognize his scoring around the basket," the coach said. "You recognize his rebounding. A double-double for a freshman is significant. What you don't see was his ability to defend – both with his post defense, as well as his ability to defend on the perimeter.

"That's one of the reasons why Wayne is special. He's a big man that can move his feet."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories