Video highlights of the UT-Austin Peay game
As the teams left the court Saturday at Thompson-Boling Arena, their day's work done, this was the final sound byte:
"Let's go Peay! Let's go Peay! Let's go Peay!''
It was, on a smaller scale, a re-enactment of exit scenes from Neyland Stadium in recent years — Tennessee fans having deserted another defeat, leaving the out-of-town victors to celebrate.
Austin Peay, 74, Tennessee 70.
That result is significant for several reasons.
First, UT fans have to suffer yet another indignity, another assault on their Big Orange pride.
Two weeks to the day after the football season ended in a humiliating loss at Kentucky, another long-standing streak is over.
The Vols had never lost to Austin Peay in eight previous games. They had lost only once in the prior 46 meetings with Ohio Valley
Conference teams, to Tennessee Tech in 1996.
"Losing was never a thought,'' said junior Kenny Hall.
"It's disappointing,'' added guard Skylar McBee. "We did not take care of our business.''
Secondly, I imagine coach Cuonzo Martin's honeymoon is over among a fair portion of Tennessee fans.
Playing competitively but coming up short against ranked teams like Duke, Memphis and Pittsburgh was encouraging. Losing at home to a 1-9 Austin Peay team is 180 degrees from encouraging.
Martin, who replaced the popular Bruce Pearl, came with a reputation as a developer of hard-nosed defenses. Defense, the thinking went, would have to hold down the fort until Martin was able to upgrade Tennessee's firepower through recruiting.
Austin Peay shot 72.7 percent in the second half. From the point at which the Governors trailed 64-53 with 6:27 to play, they were 7-of-7 from the field until the final horn.
"They didn't make any spectacular plays,'' said Hall. "We just had some breakdowns.''
There were breakdowns at the other end, too.
Hall and Jeronne Maymon dominated the first half in the paint, combining for 22 points and 16 rebounds. In the second half they combined for eight points and three rebounds, rarely touching the ball.
Hall, who finished with 12 points and 10 boards, didn't score in the final 18:20. Guards Trae Golden and Cam Tatum were a combined 1-of-15 shooting.
A moment representative of UT's dysfunction came after Austin Peay cut the lead to 70-69.
With 1:27 on the game clock and 6 seconds on the shot clock, point guard Golden was trapped near midcourt. Martin alertly called timeout to prevent an impending turnover. Good move.
So what happened? After play resumed, Hall, a 6-foot-9 center, ended up trapped virtually in the same spot Golden had been, 40 feet from the basket.
UT got a shot-clock violation. Austin Peay went down and made the go-ahead basket.
So Tennessee is 3-5. I sat down for tipoff envisioning a column on how the Vols were embarking on a very winnable stretch of games.
Austin Peay should have been the launch of a six-game winning streak to carry the Vols to Memphis on Jan. 4 with a head of steam. Scratch that idea.
Granted, this was but one afternoon in a long season. Martin hopefully suggested postgame it will be a wake-up call.
Maybe. A five-game winning streak going to Memphis is still in play. Four of the five will be in Thompson-Boling Arena.
But at this point, I wouldn't blame shell-shocked Tennessee fans for expecting the worst. They've seen their share of unhappy endings.