No. 10 Tennessee, now 4-0, advances to tonight's title game against seventh-ranked Purdue. The Boilermakers (3-0) rode an 18-point, 10-rebound performance by JaJuan Johnson to an 85-60 trouncing of St. Joseph's in Sunday's other semifinal. Tipoff for the title game is 8:30 EST. Fox SportSouth will carry the telecast.
Chism scored nine of Tennessee's final 14 points Sunday, including a monumental 3-pointer inside the final three minutes.
"There's no question that Wayne Chism stepped up big, big, big in the second half," head coach Bruce Pearl said on his post-game show. "He got the ball inside, took it closer, then he made the big 3 in rhythm and led us down the stretch with defense and rebounding."
The Vols entered Sunday's game averaging 104 points per game but struggled to get half of that against the deliberate and scrappy Blue Demons.
"Will Walker really hurt us," Pearl said. "They did a good job of trying to get him some shots. He got hot, and it was almost enough to carry 'em."
After DePaul closed to 43-42, Chism scored two inside baskets to extend the lead to 47-42. The Blue Demons wouldn't go away, however, scoring the next six points to pull ahead 48-47.
Melvin Goins hit a jumper to put Tennessee on top 49-48 with 6:11 to play but Walker made a free throw to tie the score at 49. Smith broke the tie with a free throw at 4:36, then turned things over to his frontcourt mate.
Chism drained a 3-pointer from the key to put Tennessee up 53-49, then sank an eight-footer as the lead swelled to 55-49 with 2:47 remaining. Eric Wallace and Mac Koshwal scored inside buckets as the Blue Demons closed to 55-53 but Smith calmly hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 13.7 seconds left to seal the deal.
Smith paced the Vols with 14 points. Chism added 13 points (11 in the second half) and 10 rebounds. Freshman Skylar McBee added nine, all coming in the first half.
"He made a couple of huge 3s," Pearl said. "He had some clutch, clutch shots."
Scotty Hopson, after playing brilliantly in Games 1, 2 and 3, hit a wall in Game 4. He made just 2 of 10 shots - both dunks - and struggled defensively. Point guard Bobby Maze also played poorly, which is why Goins played most of the final minutes.
"We won the game without two or three guys playing very well tonight," Pearl said, adding that he thought Goins "really picked us up defensively."
Koshwal, a 6-10, 255-pound junior who picked DePaul over Tennessee three years ago, made 5 of 10 shots and matched Walker with 14 points for the Blue Demons, now 2-1.
DePaul raced to a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes but Hopson scored on a pair of dunks to spark an 8-0 run that put Tennessee up 10-7. The Vols extended the lead to five (19-14) on a putback by Smith and to six (23-17) on a Chism dunk with 5:20 left to the break.
The lead was five (25-20) when Skylar McBee came off the Vol bench to provide a huge lift. McBee scored the Vols' final eight points of the half - hitting a 3 from the right corner, a 3 from the key and a 15-footer from the side - as the Vols went to the locker room leading 33-24.
Tennessee widened the gap to 12 (36-24) early in the second half but Smith went to the bench with his third foul moments later and the Vols' momentum seemed to go with him. DePaul chipped away and took its first lead since the opening minutes at 48-47 on a pair of Mario Stula free throws with 7:07 left.
That's when Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism put the team on their shoulders and carried it across the finish line.
Tennessee dominated the backboards 44-30 but shot just 37.3 percent (22 of 59) from the field and 25 percent (3 of 12) from beyond the arc. DePaul was even colder, shooting 33.3 percent (17 of 51) from the field and also shooting 25 percent (4 of 16) from 3. The Vols' fullcourt press did not faze the Blue Demons, who committed just 10 turnovers.