The Vols, coming off an Elite Eight appearance last March and ranked No. 23 this preseason, suffered one of the most embarrassing setbacks in program history, bowing 79-64 to NCAA Div. II Indianapolis before a stunned crowd of 16,701 at Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Big Orange played as if it was a meaningless exhibition - which it was. Conversely, the visitors played as if they thought they could hustle their way to victory - which they did.
The Greyhounds lived up to their nickname, running circles around the flat-footed Vols all night long. The 15-point margin was legitimate. Indianapolis was that much better than Tennessee on this particular night.
Vol coach Bruce Pearl said he was "very disappointed with our effort, with the progress we've made ... the lack of progress."
Borrowing a page from the Football Vols, the Basketball Vols played a good first half, then self-destructed. Up 40-32 at the break, Tennessee came out flat for the second half. Indy took full advantage, going on a 15-0 run to go up 47-40.
The Vols' Renaldo Woolridge hit a 3-pointer at this juncture but the reprieve was brief. Indianapolis put together another spurt - this one 11-0 - to widen the gap from 47-43 to 58-43
All told, the Greyhounds outscored the Big Orange 26-3 to open the second half, going from eight points down to 15 points ahead with 11:33 to go.
Skylar McBee hit a pair of 3-pointers as Tennessee narrowed the gap to 63-54, then was whistled for his fourth foul and went to the bench. He was replaced by Scotty Hopson, who also was saddled with four fouls. Hopson fouled out 94 seconds later, finishing his night with 3 points and 3 turnovers in nine foul-plagued minutes.
The Big Orange whittled the deficit to 70-64 with 2:57 remaining but the cold-shooting Vols would not score again.
Tennessee shot just 44.0 percent from the floor, 24.1 percent (7 of 29) from 3 and 50 percent (13 of 26) from the foul line. The Vols won the backboards 38-30 but committed 25 turnovers, while forcing only 10.
Despite a huge advantage in height, Tennessee never exploited it. Centers Brian Williams and John Fields were 1 for 1 each from the field. Freshman power forward Tobias Harris (10 points, 11 rebounds) was the only inside player who showed up for the Vols.
The only other Tennessee players who seemed remotely interested in the game were Cameron Tatum (15 points, 3 of 6 from 3) and McBee (9 points on 3 of 7 shooting).
The Greyhounds shot just 41.2 percent from the field but drained 33 of 40 foul shots. Darius Adams hit 15 of 16 from the line en route to 27 points. Backcourt mate Adrian Moss was 11 of 14 on foul shots and added 20 points. They were simply too quick for Tennessee's guards, fouling out both Hopson and McBee.
"The two quickest kids on the floor both played for Indianapolis - Moss and Adams," Pearl said. "They spread the floor, ran the shot clock down and we had nobody to guard them."
The loss was bittersweet for Pearl in that the winning coach, Stan Gouard, is a Pearl disciple who played for him at Southern Indiana. This was a case of the student besting the teacher, as Tennessee's coach readily admitted.
"They (Greyhounds) had a purpose out there," Pearl said. "They had chemistry. They were better coached. They knew exactly what they wanted to do and how to execute their game plan.
"Defensively, we didn't have great effort. We didn't have great energy. And all of that is my fault. You've got to put that all on the coach. I've got to get them ready to play and I've got to get them excited about playing.
"Indianapolis was a lot more excited about playing Tennessee, and it showed."
It showed, all right - on the floor and on the scoreboard.