So this is what it's come to in the final hours of 2010, a newsworthy and historic year for Tennessee basketball.
Some 352 days after an improbable, inspired upset of No. 1 Kansas, the Vols are scrapping down to the wire to beat the worst team on their schedule.
As of last March, Tennessee was fighting to the finish with the likes of Ohio State and Michigan State. Now, it's with the likes of Belmont and UT Martin.
An announced crowd of 17,481 came to Thompson-Boling Arena on Wednesday night with reasonable expectations of not gritting their teeth through a fourth consecutive one-point finish.
Hey, it wasn't like Oakland or Charlotte were in the house. If the Vols were going to blow anybody out, it would be UT Martin.
Mission accomplished: 68-62.
Comparatively speaking, a romp.
"Unfortunately I'm disappointed to see you guys.''
Explanations are in order. What's happened to Tennessee since its tour de force at Pittsburgh on Dec. 11?
The Vols' downward spiral has taken them to losses against Oakland, Charlotte and Southern Cal, a one-point win over Belmont and now 40 minutes of mostly playing from behind against lowly Martin.
Here's who Martin is:
The Skyhawks have won four games, two of them against somebody named William Woods and somebody named MacMurray. That leaves two Division I victories and one of them was over winless Centenary.
Tennessee's football team, with all its issues, drubbed Martin 50-0 in September. I don't know what the basketball equivalent of 50-0 is, but it's not 68-62.
The Skyhawks, who lost 100-40 at Ohio State 48 hours earlier, didn't play lights out Wednesday night by any means. They had one nice player - guard Reuben Clayton who scored 21 points and hit five 3-point shots.
Other than Clayton, Martin had a bunch of undersized but scrappy guys, including four freshmen in the rotation.
Martin's tallest player was 6-foot-7 but that didn't prevent the Skyhawks from winning the boards, 35-30.
Pearl essentially said Martin outrebounded UT because the Skyhawks were smaller and quicker, chasing down the loose balls. Tobias Harris was the only Vol with more than three rebounds.
Another explanation was that the Vols need to "man up,'' in the words of junior Scotty Hopson.
"When we were beating people by a lot more points and being a lot more successful, we were playing like men,'' Hopson said. "We've got to get back to doing that.''
Harris, meanwhile, had been delayed by the blizzard in New York and didn't get back on campus until late Tuesday night.
His game, however, was stranded on a tarmac at LaGuardia and didn't arrive at the arena until about the 5-minute mark.
That's when he scored 10 of his 13 points, including eight in a row to take UT from a 58-58 tie to a 66-60 lead with 13 seconds to play.
"It's been a crazy week,'' he said.
It's been a crazy 18 days since Pittsburgh.
For one thing, Pearl is struggling to set his best rotation.
"I think the biggest factor for me,'' he said, "is that we are consistently inconsistent.
"If you're asking the head coach who he wants to have out there, the head coach doesn't know who he wants out there.''
For another thing, whoever's out there, 3-point shooting remains a challenge.
The Vols entered the game tied for 288th in the nation in 3-point accuracy at 30.5 percent.
They hit three of their first four treys against Martin, then slumped back to form, making only two of the remaining 12.
Pearl ticked off nine names, all of whom he said are "capable" 3-point shooters. The nine currently range between 14 and 36 percent.
"Any one of those guys has to be accountable and responsible for making some shots,'' Pearl said.
If not, there are more nail-biters in store. And it remains to be seen how many will have endings that are, if not exactly happy, at least qualify as a relief.