November 09, 2010
Division II Indianapolis stormed into Knoxville on Monday night and emerged with an improbable 79-64 exhibition victory. It was Tennessee's first-ever exhibition loss to a fellow college team and it comes a mere seven months after the Vols were celebrating the program's first-ever berth in the Elite Eight.
"They beat us at our own game,'' senior Melvin Goins told the Knoxville News-Sentinel. "It doesn't show up on our record, but it showed up on the floor in front of our fans and our university staff members and students.
"It was embarrassing, and we're never going to forget this."
The primary question now facing the 23rd-ranked Vols is whether this performance is the start of a trend or just a mere aberration.
In other words, this could be similar to Syracuse's exhibition loss last year to LeMoyne, which proved to be a complete fluke after the Orange recovered to win the regular season Big East title. Or it may be more like UCLA's buzzer-beating victory over NAIA Concordia, which turned out to be an omen foretelling the Bruins' season-long struggles.
Smaller, quicker Indianapolis attempted a ridiculous 40 free throws, 17 of which from leading scorer Darius Adams. Tennessee turned the ball over 25 times and and made just 7 of 29 attempts from three-point range.
Maybe the only solace for the Vols is that they're hardly the only high-profile Division I program regrouping after an exhibition nightmare. Xavier, DePaul and fellow SEC team Auburn each lost to lower-division opponents in the past couple days, while Indiana and Alabama survived big scares.
In the end, it's up to Tennessee how history views this game.
Suffer through a down season, and it will be viewed as the start of the collapse. Live up to expectations, and it won't be remembered at all.