NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Bruce Pearl wanted to congratulate Wayne Chism's mother on the incredible game her son had just played and he tried to find her in the crowd. Then the Tennessee fans started cheering for the junior forward, so the coach grabbed Chism's arm and raised it.
Well played indeed.
Chism scored 21 of his career-high 26 points in the second half, and Tennessee (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) beat Marquette (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) 80-68 on Tuesday night in the second game of the Southeastern Conference/Big East Invitational.
"He's a very, very talented player," Pearl said. "Will this be a breakout game for Wayne? I don't know. But we all know he's got this ability in him. He's not shown consistently to do this. ... This is a huge, huge night for him with national television."
Marquette coach Buzz Williams was equally impressed by the 6-foot-9 Chism who was a career-best 8-of-11 at the free throw line and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"I think he's a pro. When you have a skill set with the size and the athleticism he possess. He's a really hard guy to guard because he's so strong. He can get work done in the paint, yet he can step out and hit the 3 ... I think he's a very, very talented player," Williams said.
Wesley Matthews had 30 points for Marquette (8-2), which had a three-game winning streak snapped.
Tennessee wore down the Golden Eagles, who used eight players due to injuries. Five Marquette players had at least three fouls apiece midway through the second half.
Vanderbilt of the SEC beat South Florida 71-52 in the first game.
On a supposedly neutral court, the Volunteers had the Sommet Center painted orange thanks to the 9,498 fans who showed up to watch them take on one of the Big East's record eight teams ranked in the Top 25. Pearl is 6-1 on this court 3 hours west of the campus in Knoxville.
"Nashville has been a great place over the last four years for Tennessee basketball," Pearl said. "We've played some great teams and had some great crowds. It just keeps getting better every year. I just appreciate the turnout, and well, we needed that one, needless to say."
The teams swapped the lead seven times with four ties over the first 10 minutes of the second half alone, and Tennessee couldn't lead by more than four. But the Vols used their deeper bench to wear down Marquette with a little help from officials calling the game tightly with 54 fouls.
"Anytime we get in foul trouble, no matter who the player is, we're out of whack," Williams said.
Chism hit two free throws for the final tie at 48 with 10:08 to go. He added two more free throws 30 seconds later to put the Vols ahead to stay, and that got the junior forward going as he added two dunks. He brought the crowd to its feet by hitting a 3-pointer with 5:59 left for a 65-58 lead -- Tennessee's biggest of the game to that point.
"I haven't lost in this gym," Chism said. "It's been cold and cold and cold. This was the first time I felt it was warm. For some reason, I like this gym, and it's a very good place to play in."
Hayward hit a 3 with 2:24 remaining to pull Marquette within 70-68. Josh Tabb answered with a 3 for Tennessee, and fans started chanting "S-E-C" as the final seconds ticked off.
Marquette looked ready to roll over Tennessee in the first half, taking a 15-6 lead on a free throw by Matthews with 13:14 to go. The Vols, who missed their first five 3-point attempts, started going inside and whittled away at the lead. Brian Williams gave Tennessee its first lead since the opening basket, 24-23 with 6:24 left.
Matthews hit another 3 with 19.5 seconds left to tie the score at 32 going into halftime.