Pearl toasts Vol posts

Earlier this season Tennessee was getting rocked from pillar to post on the inside. Now the Vols' post game is trying to become a pillar.

First-team center Wayne Chism (6-9, 245 pounds) contributed 15 points and 5 rebounds in Wednesday's 93-71 thumping of Arkansas. Backup Duke Crews (6-7, 233) added 11 points and 11 rebounds. Power forward Tyler Smith (6-7, 215) chipped in 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Freshman Brian Williams (6-10, 270) added 2 points, a blocked shot and 4 fouls in nine active minutes off the bench.

Chism, Crews, Smith and Williams more than held their own against a towering Razorback front line, helping UT outrebound the visitors 38-36.

"I thought our bigs competed on the boards," Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said. "I thought they sealed off and really put a body on ‘em (Razorback posts). Between Duke and Wayne and Tyler and Brian, those guys have manned up a little bit."

Tennessee will need to "man up" again Saturday at 3 p.m., when the Vols visit Georgia. Though 12-10 overall and 3-6 in SEC play, the Dawgs are 11-2 at home and coming off an 82-64 drubbing of South Carolina. Thus, the fourth-ranked Vols (22-2 overall, 9-1 SEC) may need another productive outing from their inside players in order to win.

Pearl said he has been making his "bigs" work extra hard on post moves in practice this week. He wants them taking some of the scoring burden off of guards Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith, so Tennessee isn't such a perimeter-oriented attack.

"They don't like hearing it from me but to beat the best teams on our schedule we've got to get more inside offense," Pearl said. "That's got to come from those inside guys and possibly Ramar (Smith). I'm not calling ‘em out. I'm challenging ‘em, and they understand what my expectations are."

The expectations have risen since Crews returned to action following a six-week layoff related to an abnormality in his heart. The fact he had more rebounds (11) than Chism (5), Smith (4) and Williams (0) combined vs. Arkansas underscores just how important Crews is to Tennessee's post game.

"When Duke's in there, Duke goes hard to the boards," Chism said. "Duke's going to get his hand on it. He's at least tipping the ball, trying to get it. Duke will do his best to try and get him an offensive rebound or a defensive rebound.

"And I can't leave Brian out," Chism added. "Brian will come in and keep the ball alive. If he doesn't get it, he's tipping it out and trying to get the loose ball. Brian is hustling for every rebound."

The return of Crews has enabled Chism to move from the post to the power forward spot on occasion. This increases Chism's versatility but, by moving him farther from the basket, limits his rebounding opportunities a bit.

"I try my best, but I'm playing two positions," he said, "so sometimes I'm not in there. But I've really got to work on trying to get more rebounds myself."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories