With 5:14 remaining Vol junior Wayne Chism took a nasty spill while blocking a transition layup attempt by the Ragin' Cajuns' La'Ryan Gary. Chism was immobilized and wheeled from the floor by stretcher, then taken to UT Hospital. He was able to move his fingers and legs – suggesting there was no paralysis – but he was severely dazed.
Chism lay on the arena floor for perhaps 15 minutes while paramedics prepared him for transport to the hospital.
“He was conscious the whole time,” head coach Bruce Pearl said, “but it took him awhile to kind of figure out exactly where he was.”
Asked if Chism was coherent as he lay on the floor, Pearl replied: “Toward the end he was.”
The coach said the 6-9, 240-pound Bolivar native was taken to the hospital for “precautionary reasons,” adding that Chism has “a head and neck injury. We don't know to what extent.”
As Chism was wheeled from the playing floor atop a mobile stretcher, he was fervently mouthing words, apparently praying.
The awful fall was the only thing that could stop him on this night. Prior to the injury Chism posted team highs in points (18), rebounds (15) rebounds, assists (3) and blocks (2) – all in 24 spectacular minutes. He even drained a couple of 3-pointers.
“Obviously, Wayne had a tremendous night going,” Pearl said. “He's been terrifically consistent and dominant, inside and out.”
When play resumed following Chism's injury, the only suspense concerned whether the Vols would score 90 or more points, thereby earning all ticket-holders a free sandwich from Knoxville area Chick Fil-A restaurants.
Historically, Tennessee dribbles away the final seconds of a lopsided win. Not this time, though. With an 89-62 lead and perhaps half of the announced crowd of 21,863 still on hand cheering for one more basket, the Vols tried to accommodate. Renaldo Woolridge missed a 3-pointer and a dunk in the final five seconds, however, leaving the score at 89-62 and leaving thousands of chicken sandwiches unclaimed.
Other than the Chism injury and the chicken quest, the game was pretty routine. The Vols scored their first six points on three putbacks, then used an 11-0 spurt to go up 17-7. A Cameron Tatum 3-pointer expanded the lead to 15 points (39-24) with 3:50 left to the break.
Up 48-33 early in the second half, 14th-ranked Tennessee (9-2) put the game away with a 21-4 explosion that widened the gap to 69-37 with 12:35 remaining.
All-American Tyler Smith had an off night for the Vols – scoring 10 points but making just 3 of 8 shots, with 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. Josh Tabb picked up some slack, hitting 4 of 4 from the field en route to a 9-point, 5-rebound, 2-assist outing. J.P. Prince, back from a three-game layoff due to a sprained ankle, added 8 points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Long-range bomber Randell Daigle hit 4 of 6 3-point tries en route to a team-high 16 points for Louisiana, which falls to 4-7. He scored just two of his points after halftime.
Tennessee shot 48.4 percent from the floor, while limiting Louisiana to 37.9 percent. The Vols won the backboards 47-35 and forced 22 turnovers. It wasn't a great performance but it was plenty good enough to keep the Cajuns from ragin'.
“I thought we made progress tonight,” Pearl said. “There was good (scoring) balance obviously, and I thought our defense was pretty much good throughout.”