A parting message for Tennessee men's basketball hung high on the far wall above the south basket at Virginia's John Paul Jones Arena on Wednesday.
"I have not yet begun to fight."
It was 1798 when John Paul Jones, the greatest naval officer of the American Revolutionary War, found his ship overwhelmed by a 44-gun Royal Navy vessel Serapis. Asked if it was time to surrender, Jones defiantly responded with those famed seven words.
Three hours later, Serapis was defeated. Jones took command.
One month and seven games into its season, Tennessee also has found itself overwhelmed. A fledgling offense just scored 74 points combined in back-to-back losses to Georgetown (37-36) and Virginia (46-38). Even with Jeronne Maymon (knee) unable to play a game this season, few predicted a 4-3 start.
The fight has begun, but the Vols are without bullets.
The last time they scored in the 30s in back-to-back games was a 38-31 victory over Mississippi State and a 38-34 loss to Georgia Tech.
That was in February of 1946.
Utilizing eight days off between Thursday and a home date with No. 24 Wichita State (8-0) on Dec. 13, UT will search for some fight.
"No one is going to quit based on the season we had last year," sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes said. "The guys still know the type of game we can play."
At this time last year, UT was 3-4 and on its way to 3-6. From there, the Vols — thanks in part to
the mid-season addition of Stokes — rebounded to finish 19-15.
It's not that simple now. There's no five-star recruit waiting in the wings to magically appear in Knoxville as a belated Christmas present.
This time, Stokes' season parallels the Vols' struggles. He's averaged 17.3 points on 27-for-42 shooting in UT's four wins and 5.3 points on 6-for-16 shooting in three losses.
That's not to say it's only on Stokes. The rest of the Vols combined to shoot 28.0 percent (37-132) from the field and 18.9 percent (11-58) in losses to Virginia, Georgetown and Oklahoma State.
Against Virginia, coach Cuonzo Martin appeared to try to mix things up by any means necessary. After scoring four points in the game's first 7 minutes, he inserted walk-on point guard Brandon Lopez and surrounded him with starter Skylar McBee and reserves D'Montre Edwards, Quinton Chievous and Yemi Makanjuola.
It didn't make a difference. UT opened the game 3-of-18 from the field.
As the missed shots keep piling up, so do questions about the Vols' confidence.
"I don't consume myself with talking about it because I was a player before, so I know that when you start talking about certain things over and over, guys start to see it and believe it," Martin said. "They read it. So for me as a coach, it's just 'If you have open shots, shoot 'em.' "
In games played through Wednesday, Tennessee ranked 213th in the country shooting 42.2 percent from the field and 278th with 35 made 3-pointers.
Today, Martin will serve as the Grand Marshal of the WIVK Santa Claus Parade in downtown Knoxville at 7 p.m.
Safe to say what he'll be asking Ol' Santa for.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn