After finishing last season on a historically high note, the start of the Tennessee men’s 2010-11 basketball campaign includes a decidedly down one.
Seven months after leading the men’s basketball team to its first NCAA tourney Elite Eight, coach Bruce Pearl suffered his first exhibition loss in Thompson-Boling Arena and the program’s first-ever exhibition loss to a college team.
Division II Indianapolis opened the second half on a 15-0 run that it extended to 26-3 en route to a 79-64 win over the Vols on Monday night.
“Defensively, we didn’t have great effort, we didn’t have great energy,’’ said Pearl, who is opening his sixth season as UT’s coach. “All of that is my fault. You’ve got to put it all on the coach. We were embarrassed.’’
Many in the announced crowd of 16,701 headed to the exits early after 23rd-ranked UT failed to draw closer than seven points in the closing minutes.
The Vols turned the ball over 25 times and shot poorly, making just 22 of 50 from the floor, including 7 of 29 beyond the 3-point arc. UT was 13-of-26 from the free throw line.
The smaller, quicker Greyhounds were disciplined in their offensive sets and out-hustling the Vols to loose balls.
UT wasn’t fast enough to guard them, and that resulted in Indianapolis getting to the free throw line, where the Greyhounds made the Vols pay by converting on 33 of 40 attempts.
Coached by Stan Gouard, who played for Pearl at Southern Indiana and helped lead that team to a national title, Indianapolis ran the same “cutters” system the Vols employ in the half court.
“They beat us at our own game,’’ UT senior Melvin Goins said. “It (exhibition loss) 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.’’
Neither will Greyhounds guard Darius Adams, who scored 27 points, dished out eights assists and made four steals. Adams, who went 15-for-16 from the free throw line, also got Vols’ junior Scotty Hopson into foul trouble. Hopson played just nine minutes before fouling out, finishing with three points and three turnovers.
With Hopson out, UT struggled to score.
Cameron Tatum led Tennessee with 15 points and freshman Tobias Harris had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“Tobias Harris was the only offensive presence we had inside,’’ Pearl said. “We had other advantages on the inside and we didn’t take advantage of them. We had a hard time getting the ball into the post.’’
Vols senior center Brian Williams, who left the game with an undisclosed elbow injury in the final minutes, attempted just one shot in his 22 minutes. Senior transfer John Fields, another 6-foot-9 presence, also attempted just one shot in 18 minutes.
The Vols led by as many as 10 in the first half and were up 40-32 at the break.
But once the Greyhounds spurted ahead, they went to a zone defense, and UT settled for 3-point attempts — making 4 of 17 in the second half.
As the Vols faltered, Lady Vols coach Pat Summitt encouraged the fans to cheer. But not even Summitt could reverse UT’s fortunes on this night.
The last men’s exhibition loss in Thompson-Boling Arena was in 2001, to a team called “Worldwide,” 84-81.
The Vols open the regular season at 9 p.m. Friday against Chattanooga at Thompson-Boling Arena.