An announced crowd of 15,215 was missing about 5,000 faces on Thursday night at Thompson-Boling Arena. This week's end of final exams swiped many bodies from the student section. The upper deck was more than half empty.
The rims, though, were still the same ol' Thompson-Boling rims.
Maybe that's all it took for a stumbling UT offense to find its footing. A 69-60 win over No. 23 Wichita State brought sweet relief.
The Vols (5-3) made 19 of 40 shots from the field. They sank 29 of 36 free throws.
In those belabored back-to-back losses to Georgetown and Virginia, they were 30-for-98 on field-goal attempts and 8-for-19 from the free-throw line.
Including three games played at the Puerto Rico Tip-off in November, Tennessee is shooting 37.0 percent (97-262) from the field outside of Knoxville.
It's shooting 52.3 percent (92-176) at home.
UT has made the same amount of free throws (61) in three homes games as it has in five road games.
The Vols don't play another road game until January 12. Home games against Presbyterian, Western Carolina, Xavier, Memphis and Ole Miss come in between.
Best Defense Since 1995: For the first time since a four-game stretch in December 1995, Tennessee's defense has held four straight opponents to 60 points or less.
More impressively, three of the four opponents (Georgetown, Virginia, Wichita State) played in last season's NCAA tournament, while the fourth (Oakland) reached the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
The Vols held the four to 34.6 percent shooting from the field and 19.6 percent from 3-point distance.
Back in 1995, the Vols under Kevin O'Neill pulled off the 60-and-under feat against Memphis, Houston, South Florida and Miami.
The last time five straight opponents were held to 60 or less? In the last five games of the 1981-82 season. Don DeVoe's team held its final five opponents, including NCAA tournament games against Southwest Louisiana and Virginia, to 57 or fewer points.
Presbyterian (2-7), UT's next opponent, averages 59.8 points per game and is winless against Division I opponents.
Golden Touch From The Line: Against Wichita, the Vols made more free throws (29) than they attempted in the two previous game combined (19).
Trae Golden was the prime reason. After seeing his junior point guard sink 13 of 16 from the line, coach Cuonzo Martin was quick to call Thursday the best game of Golden's season.
"With Jeronne (Maymon) out right now, we kind of lack a leaders" Golden said. "Me and him were kind of a duo so without him I have to step up even more. I just try to be that guy, help everybody out. I can't fallback anymore. I'm a junior now. I decided to step up."
Martin repeatedly said through the preseason that he'd monitor Golden's minutes and not ask him to play over 30 minutes per game. Needing a marquee win over a non-conference foe, however, Golden played 34.
He now leads the Vols in minutes (30.5 per game), points (13.3) and assists (37), while ranking fourth in turnovers (16).
Struggling Stokes: Saddled with foul trouble, Jarnell Stokes played just 18 minutes against Wichita. He finished with six points on 3-for-4 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds.
Since scoring 24 and 19 on 20 shot attempts in wins over Massachusetts and Oakland, Stokes has scored 15 points total on 12 shots in UT's last three games. He's 1-for-7 from the free-throw line in those games.
Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn