WASHINGTON — A couple of weeks ago some guy named Jack Taylor of Grinnell College scored 138 points in a game. Tennessee scored 36 points Friday night.
So basketball is a funny game. But I didn't see anyone laughing at the Verizon Center here in our nation's capital.
Not esteemed Hall of Fame coaches Bobby Knight, who was on the ESPN2 broadcast team, nor John Thompson, who built Georgetown University into a national power and dropped by to watch his son John III run the franchise.
Not towering Ralph Sampson, who was in the crowd, perhaps scouting on behalf of Virginia, his alma mater and UT's next opponent.
Georgetown 37, Tennessee 36.
Makes a pretty good halftime score, but this was a final.
"I knew it was a one-point game,'' said Trae Golden, UT's point guard, "but after the game, it really sank in — we only scored 36 points.''
I don't even believe erstwhile UT defensive taskmaster Kevin O'Neill would have gotten a chuckle out of this stinker.
O'Neill was the coach the last time the Vols scored this few points. It was in a 43-35 loss at Auburn in January 1997. A couple of weeks earlier, O'Neill's team finished 40 minutes in a 33-33 deadlock at Penn State, then lost 42-41 in overtime.
The shot clock was introduced to college basketball in the 1985-86 season to avoid scores like this.
And yet 37-36 proved unavoidable.
A few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, Congress is wrestling to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Tennessee is teetering toward an offensive cliff.
Three games ago the Vols scored 45 points in a 17-point loss to Oklahoma State. In that game Tennessee produced only 13 baskets, two fewer than against Georgetown.
The difference between 45 then and 36 Friday was at the free-throw line.
Tennessee made 14 of 22 free throws against Oklahoma State. Nothing to brag about but it towers over 3 of 11, which is the crime the Vols committed against Georgetown.
The story of the game was the Hoyas' zone defense, particularly the height and wingspan of the guys on the front end of that zone.
But there was no zone defense at the foul stripe. Just a Vol, a ball and the basket.
Kenny Hall had an 0-for-2 early, but the killers came near the end. The Vols trailed 33-32 when first Josh Richardson missed both tries, then on the next possession Jarnell Stokes did likewise.
With a couple of exceptions, this hasn't been a good free-throw shooting team in the early stages of the season. But 3 of 11, come on?
Let me interrupt this gloomy account to applaud Tennessee's defense and effort on the boards.
The Vols weren't the only ones missing shots. Georgetown was 16-of-44. There were enough combined bricks to start a new monument down on the Mall.
If not for UT's inspired defensive effort, this one would have transcended from ugly to out-of-hand ugly.
"We had a chance to win there at the end and that's all you can ask,'' said senior Sklyar McBee. "Georgetown is one of the most talented teams in the country.
"They took Indiana, the number one team in the nation, into overtime. We come to Georgetown and get beat by one. I think that shows we're a team to be reckoned with.''
Opponents might want to reckon with the Vols with a zone defense after watching Georgetown's success.
Tennessee could neither penetrate nor shoot over the zone. The Vols were 3-of-16 beyond the 3-point line.
I asked Bert Bertelkamp how many times he got to shout "Money!" into the Vol Network microphone.
"Just once,'' he replied.
There probably aren't a bunch of zone defenses out there as lengthy and as oppressive as Georgetown's. Still, the suspicion remains that this won't be Tennessee's last offensively challenged night of the season.
Maybe 36 is a fluke. Maybe it's an omen.