Pearl's directive to Wayne Chism prior to the Vols' second-round game against Butler University was identical: Stay out of foul trouble.
Chism followed orders for ... well, almost 7 minutes. Assessed his second foul with 13:08 left to halftime, he again went to the bench. With its best big man playing sparingly the rest of the half, Tennessee saw a 15-5 lead whittled to 38-34 by the break.
Given that third-round opponent Louisville has one of the best frontlines in college basketball, keeping Chism on the floor and out of foul trouble might be the single biggest key to Thursday night's Sweet 16 matchup. So, how does Chism play aggressively without fouling?
"I don't know how I'm supposed to do that," he said, shaking his head in bewilderment. "I've probably just got to keep my hands up the whole time, so I won't get any fouls."
Actually, keeping your hands up can get you in trouble, too. After the second foul against Butler, Chism kept his hands aloft for probably half a minute. The officials were not amused.
"The ref told me, ‘Don't show ‘em up,' so I had to put my hands down," Chism recalled, grinning sheepishly. "It was very frustrating."
Basically, playing good defense is a matter of using your feet and not your hands. If you are quick-footed enough to maintain good defensive position, you won't have to use your hands to try and stop an opponent who is driving past you. Chism has incredibly quick feet for a big man, yet he still finds himself in foul trouble on a regular basis.
"It still amazes me he gets in foul trouble early," Vol coach Bruce Pearl said. "He's one of the best defensive big men in the country. He moves his feet, he's smart … just let him play."
Several of Chism's fouls in the NCAA East sub-regional at Birmingham came when he was trying to keep opposing guards from driving to the basket. When a 6-9 forward and a 6-2 guard collide, the guard almost always gets the benefit of the doubt from the officials.
"I know how guards do when they get to the paint," Chism said. "They will throw their body into you to draw the contact."
The foul that frustrated Chism most – the one that caused him to leave his hands in the air and draw a warning from the officials – occurred at the end of an ill-fated drive by Butler's Pete Campbell.
"That particular moment I didn't think there was that much contact," Chism said. "He just missed a wide-open layup, and sometimes the ref will bail a guard out (by calling a foul) like that."
Despite first-half foul trouble in Tennessee's two games at Birmingham, Chism adjusted his play and managed to finish each outing with 16 points.
Pearl praised the muscular sophomore for "the maturity factor and the poise" he showed, noting that "Wayne bounced back in the second half and did the things we needed him to do at both ends of the floor."
Still, Chism concedes that he must find a way to avoid foul trouble if second-seeded Tennessee (31-4) is to beat third-seeded Louisville (26-8) Thursday night in Charlotte.
"I went through foul trouble for the first two games of the Tournament but overcame it in the second half," he said. "Now I've just got to go out there and play and try not to get fouls."