That was not the case Saturday against South Carolina, however. Thanks to a 9-0 spurt, Tennessee had closed a 28-17 deficit to 28-26. The Vols were rolling and the Gamecocks were tiring. From all appearances, Tennessee was on the verge of taking control of the game.
Then Duke Crews, another freshman post, was whistled for a technical foul. Tre Kelley hit the two technical free throws, then Bryce Sheldon nailed a 3-pointer. All of a sudden, the deficit had swelled from two points to seven. Tennessee never got closer than three points the rest of the game.
Five minutes into the second half Chism struck again. With Carolina leading 49-35 he was whistled for a technical. Kelley made one of two foul shots this time and Sheldon hit a layup moments later as the lead went from 14 points to 17.
"I don't want the players talking to the officials," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "Obviously, it's not good. Chism and Crews have had enough situations ... that I've got to do something to change it."
Both Chism and Crews are highly emotional players. Both are quick to display their emotions on the court. And both are getting teed up on a regular basis this season.
Why? Bert Bertelkamp, a former UT player who now serves as color commentator for the Vol Network, believes questioning an official is a right that a player must earn over a period of time. Freshmen simply have not put in the time to earn that right. So, a comment that might be OK coming from a junior or senior is likely to incur a technical foul when coming from a freshman.
To make a miserable day complete, Pearl picked up a technical of his own with 9:23 remaining in Saturday's game. By then, however, the deficit was 23 points (65-42) and the game was lost.
Although his technical had no impact on the outcome, the Vol coach was bothered and befuddled by it.
"It's hard for me when I don't know what the standard is (for incurring a technical)," Pearl said on his post-game show. "I can tell you what my standard is, and it's not much. I protested a five-second call down on the end line, and I yelled out, 'That's six seconds!' I said it two or three times."
Still, the Vol coach insisted that he said nothing profane. He also said he got no warning prior to the technical.
"There's not a real high margin," he said. "So I'm going to have to find out from our supervisor (SEC supervisor of officials Gerald Boudreaux) what the standard is."
Perhaps Bertelkamp's comment about officials giving young players less leeway than veteran players applies to coaches, as well. Pearl is relatively new to the SEC – this is his second year – so league officials may keep him on a shorter leash than a veteran SEC coach such as Kentucky's Tubby Smith or Vanderbilt's Gene Stallings. Or maybe Pearl's powerful personality simply rubs some officials the wrong way.
Whatever the explanation might be, Pearl seems teed off about being teed up.
"Obviously," he said, "there's a real short fuse."