Speaking on his post-game show, Pearl explained the decision to start 6-10 sophomore Brian Williams ahead of Chism this way:
"I knew Kevin (Stallings) was going to try and go at Wayne. Given the situation with Wayne and the South Carolina foul trouble, I just wanted Brian Williams to go at (A.J.) Ogilvy, defend him and wear him out a little bit ... and don't get Wayne in foul trouble."
The strategy worked beautifully, as Chism responded with his best first half of the season.
"Wayne was fresh and he was furious," Pearl said. "He came out and bang, bang, bang. I thought it threw Vanderbilt off a little bit and I thought it helped Wayne out, although he still fouled out."
By the time Chism fouled out, however, the Vols were leading by 14 points with 2:14 remaining.
The win was Tennessee's seventh in its last eight SEC road games. The loss was Vandy's first after nine consecutive SEC home wins. The Vols now stand 12-5 overall and 3-1 in league play. Vandy slips to 12-6 and 1-3.
Pearl described the victory as "tremendous," noting that the Vols played well "start to finish."
Once he entered the lineup, Chism wasted no time making his presence felt. He quickly drained back-to-back 3-pointers, pushing a 4-1 lead to 10-1. All told, he scored 10 consecutive UT points in helping the Vols build a 14-3 lead.
Chism wound up scoring 16 points in 16 first-half minutes as Tennessee went to the break with a 28-20 lead.
The Commodores scored the first bucket of the second half to pull within six but would get no closer. Up 57-49 entering the game's last five minutes, Tennessee drained 13 of 14 foul shots down the stretch to seal the deal.
Pearl seemed more relieved than pleased with the outcome.
"Right now we are a better team than Vanderbilt," Pearl said. "That's not a criticism. I just felt like we needed to get this one. Because the next three (games) are Memphis, LSU and Florida. There will be a bunch of NBA scouts at those games because those guys are all loaded."
Chism (20 points, 7 rebounds) was one of four double-figure scorers for the Vols. Tyler Smith recorded eight points in the final 3:05, finishing with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. J.P. Prince added 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Scotty Hopson chipped in 11 points.
Tennessee shot 50 percent (27 of 54) from the field against a Vandy team that came in leading the NCAA in field-goal defense at just 36.6 percent. The Vols also shot 30.1 percent (4 of 13) from 3-point range and 78.3 (18 of 23) from the foul line.
"I thought our shot selection, our discipline, our patience, our poise in looking for the extra pass and not giving those guys (Commodores) transition baskets was a real key," Pearl said, subsequently adding that the Vols "put the 3-ball away a little bit."
Tennessee's much-maligned defense played perhaps its best game of the season. The Vols limited Vandy to a frigid 18.5 percent shooting (5 of 27) in the first half. The Commodores finished just 34 percent from the floor and 26 percent (6 of 23) from beyond the arc.
"The defensive percentages were unbelievable – 18 percent and 20 points in the first half," Pearl said. "But Vanderbilt is not a great offensive team, and they'll have nights like this."