Bad news for 'big dudes'

Facing a physically imposing All-American was supposed to be Mission Impossible for Tennessee's freshman post players. Instead, it was more like taking candy from a baby, albeit a 6-foot-9, 290-pound baby.

After repeatedly hearing and reading how Glen "Big Baby" Davis of LSU was going to dominate him, 6-foot-9, 240-pound Vol rookie Wayne Chism was as motivated as he'd ever been in his life.

"I wanted to play him SOOO bad," he recalled.

Chism got his wish Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena, and shocked the 17,000 in attendance by limiting Davis to a season-low 5 points on 2-of-10 shooting. Clearly flustered, Davis also committed 4 turnovers.

Asked what his hard-nosed performance proved, Chism smiled.

"It showed everybody that I'm not scared," he said. "Everybody was thinking, ‘Oh, man, Big Baby's going to go off on you.' Everybody around town was like, ‘Oh, man, you better watch.'"

Chism and fellow freshman Duke Crews, a 6-foot-7, 233-pounder, were not amused by the talk. Nor were they intimidated by the prospect of facing Big Baby.

"We came out to show everybody that, whatever big dude comes in, we ain't going to be scared of him," Chism said. "It don't matter how many points they score but it's going to be hard for them to score."

Though outweighed by 50 pounds, Chism held his ground Tuesday night and would not allow Davis to muscle his way to the rim. Big Baby eventually moved away from the basket and began launching an assortment of 12- to 18-footers. Most missed the mark.

Chism's defensive work on Big Baby was particularly crucial down the stretch. Down 66-57 with just over three minutes left, LSU worked the ball to Davis five feet from the basket. With Chism's forearm planted firmly in his back, Davis paused briefly, then passed the ball back outside, causing LSU to incur a shot-clock violation.

On the Tigers' next possession, Davis moved to the perimeter. Chism went with him and forced a traveling violation that thwarted another LSU scoring opportunity.

"I kept playing good defense on him," Chism said, literally beaming. "And I did a good job against him."

Obviously. Davis did not score a point in the game's final 15 minutes. Asked if he felt he frustrated the talented Tiger, Chism shook his head.

"I don't think I did," he said, "but I think it got to him at the end and he was tired."

Chism has faced many of the NCAA's best big men this year, including North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, Ohio State's Greg Oden, Kentucky's Randolph Morris and Florida's duo of Joakim Noah and Al Horford. Still, none of them could match the brute strength of Big Baby.

So, what was it like facing a man so powerful?

"It was hard," Chism conceded. "He's strong, like Horford from Florida, but I fought through it and kept playing physical. I kept saying to myself, ‘I can do this' and I kept doing it."

After scoring 19 points against Horford and the Gators last Saturday, Chism followed his best offensive performance of the season with his best defensive outing against LSU. Clearly, he has come a long way in the past few weeks. So has fellow rookie Crews.

"It's the confidence," Chism explained. "At the beginning of the season we had confidence but then we ended up getting down ourselves. We still think we can do it. We can play with anybody that comes in."

They proved as much Tuesday night against the 2005-06 SEC Player of the Year, a guy who is as tough and talented as anyone the Vols will face the rest of the season.

"We're going to play against the best big dudes the whole time," Chism said. "Every time a commentator says ‘He's the best dude in town,' we ain't going to be backing down from nobody."

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