Senior guard Mustapha Farrakhan dribbled out the clock as 8,930 Virginia home fans stood clapping. Farrakhan and senior forward Will Sherrill basked in a 69-58 win against N.C. State, making their last memory at John Paul Jones Arena a positive one.
"I was just happy; I really tried to soak it in that last minute when the game was kind of assured, and look into the crowd and embrace the experience," Sherrill said. "This will definitely be a night that I remember for the rest of my life."
Farrakhan admitted that the night before the game, he sat in John Paul Jones Arena, bracing himself for the moment.
"I kind of prepped myself; I went in here yesterday with the lights off, thinking about what was going to happen here tomorrow," Farrakhan said. "All my teammates were betting to see if I would cry, but I said I am not going to cry."
Entering last night's matchup, Bennett told his seniors to not let the night's emotions interfere with their playing.
"I told them that I have been a part of a lot of senior nights and that the best way they could give back would be to play their hearts out, and I think they both did that tonight," Bennett said.
Farrakhan finished with 15 points, and Sherrill's last home game was arguably his finest. After fighting leg injuries throughout the season, Sherrill played 37 minutes and tallied a season-high 14 points.
"In the first half I was a little tired - I don't think I've ever played 37 minutes," Sherrill said. "But when you're playing well and having a good game, minutes go by."
Sherrill opened his senior night with back-to-back threes, and then freshman guard Joe Harris drained two more as the Cavaliers took a 14-0 lead against the Wolfpack.
Virginia has been prone to letting early leads slip away, however, and N.C. State battled back to close within one, 18-17, with 9:20 remaining.
"We came out great, and then we struggled," Bennett said. "We're far from perfect and that revealed it. It was very similar to the Boston College game where we were up 28-21 - we can lose a lead quicker than most teams."
Saturday, Virginia let Boston College end the first half on a 10-0 run and never recovered. Last night, however, the team weathered the Wolfpack's charge and held a 32-28 halftime lead.
During the second half, Sherrill drilled a three-pointer with 14:46 remaining and then added another three minutes later to take a 13-point lead. Sherrill's extended minutes allowed Bennett to play a more traditional lineup and use Harris in his more natural small forward position. Harris excelled in that role, posting a game-high 19 points.
"I was thinking before the game I didn't want to do anything other than get the win for them on their senior night," Harris said. "I'm really happy for them and that they get to leave with a win."
N.C. State narrowed the lead to six with 3:51 left, but Farrakhan hit a three to extend the margin back to nine. The Cavaliers then made 10 of their final 11 free throws to seal the 69-58 victory. Virginia has struggled from the line this year - shooting 68.6 percent on the season - but made 85 percent of their free throws last night.
"We probably would have some more wins if we had made more free throws this year," Bennett said. "I was glad we were able to hit them tonight."
The win sends Virginia to Maryland with momentum. The Terrapins crushed Virginia 66-42 at JPJ, but the Cavaliers have won three of their last four and are looking for revenge in their last regular season game.
Maryland "really put it on us at [home] and obviously we want some redemption going in there on Saturday," Harris said. "This is a feel-good win for us going into Maryland"