Battlin' babies

LSU basketball player Glen Davis carries the nickname "Big Baby," even though you would need a queen-sized bed sheet to fashion a diaper big enough to cover his hulking 6-foot-9, 295-pound frame.

The guy likely to guard him Tuesday night – 6-foot-9, 240-pound Tennessee freshman Wayne Chism – is no baby in terms of size, either. He's in the infancy of his development as a college basketball player, however. So is fellow freshman Duke Crews, a 6-foot-7, 233-pounder who shares Tennessee's post duties.

As a result, Vol head coach Bruce Pearl is only half joking when he sums up Tuesday's game as "Big Baby going up against some of my babies."

In this case, you've got to like Big Baby's chances. He manhandled 6-10, 250-pound Vol junior Major Wingate last year, hitting 10 of 13 floor shots and finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocked shots as the Tigers dumped the Vols 88-74 in Baton Rouge.

If an experienced junior like Wingate couldn't slow down Davis, you have to wonder how a relative toddler such as Chism can do the job.

"Glen Davis was the Player of the Year in our conference (in 2005-06)," Pearl notes, "and he's better this year than he was last year... Obviously, it'll be an interesting challenge."

On the plus side, Chism scored a career-high 19 points Saturday afternoon against top-ranked Florida and its towering post duo of 6-foot-11, 230-pound Joakim Noah and 6-foot-10, 245-pound Al Horford. On the minus side, Noah and Horford are relative lightweights compared to Glen Davis.

"Big Baby" leads the SEC in rebounding at 10.3 per game. He ranks second in scoring (18.5 points per game) and seventh in field-goal percentage (49.8). Still, he was more effective last year, when foes couldn't double-team him without being burned by 6-foot-9 Tiger freshman Tyrus Thomas. Since Thomas jumped to the NBA after just one college season, LSU's 2006-07 opponents are much more inclined to double-team Davis. Tennessee probably won't resort to this tactic, however.

"When teams double him, they double him with two 6-9s," Pearl said. "I don't have two 6-9s to double him with."

Apparently, Tennessee's coach plans to give Chism the imposing challenge of handling "Big Baby" man on man. That shows a lot of confidence in the personable freshman from Bolivar.

"Wayne Chism is an excellent defender, on the perimeter and in the post," Pearl notes. "If you look at his one-on-one matchups, he doesn't get dominated in the post. He's not dominating anybody in the post himself but he's still able to score, both inside and out."

Over the past five outings Chism has made 21 of 36 shots and averaged 11 points per game. Pearl cites "maturity" as the key, adding: "I think Wayne is growing up. His body language is really positive. His practice habits have improved. Academically, he's still the first guy into the tutoring sessions. He's always on time and always taking care of his business.

"He's handling adversity better. The highs haven't been too high and the lows haven't been too low. I really like the way he's maturing."

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