Bennett paused, forced a smile, said something about his team having played hard and then finally shook his head and said, “How about if I get back to you on that one?”
A few minutes later, in a quiet room a few yards away from his team’s very quiet locker room, Bennett laughed when the question came up.
“I mean what was I supposed to say?” he asked. He looked down at his crisp orange tie. “I guess my tie looked pretty good.”
That was pretty much the list of the positives for Virginia on a lost afternoon at Greensboro Coliseum. The Cavaliers were blown out of the ACC tournament quarterfinals — and, in all likelihood, the NCAA tournament — 75-56 by suddenly impressive North Carolina State. The final margin was an accurate reflection of the game. Bennett looked like a genius for 30 seconds when center Mike Tobey, starting for the first time since the season opener, began the game with a short hook shot to give his team a 2-0 lead.
That was Virginia’s last lead. It also was the last time anyone in white and orange had much to feel good about.
Joe Harris, who was being mentioned as an ACC player of the year candidate two weeks ago after scoring 36 points against Duke, shot 4 of 13 from the field, meaning he is 17 of 57 since that euphoric night.
The Cavaliers didn’t make a three-point shot for the first 16 minutes and had no answers for Scott Wood outside or C.J. Leslie and T.J. Warren inside.
They were crushed on the boards (39-28) and shot 39 percent as a team — 5 of 20 from beyond the arc.
Then again, Bennett’s tie did look good.
“There were a few areas where we needed to be A or A-minus to have a chance to win the game and we didn’t do it,” Bennett said. “We needed to be good in transition and good on the boards. And we needed to make shots. We just didn’t play very well and that was the result.”
Virginia has lost three of four since the storm-the-court win over Duke on the last day of February. The Cavaliers could have won at Boston College and Florida State — but didn’t.
They could have lost to Maryland at home — and didn’t. That’s why they so badly needed a win Friday to add a quality win to their unique résumé: three losses to Colonial Athletic Association teams balanced by road wins over Wisconsin and Maryland and home wins over Tennessee, Duke, N.C. State and North Carolina.
“Someone called us the Dos Equis bubble team,” Bennett said. “We’re the most interesting bubble team in the world. We certainly have some quality wins and we have some bad losses, too.”
He shrugged. “What will be will be.”
What will probably be is a bid to the National Invitation Tournament.
Virginia has one chance to sneak onto the NCAA board on Sunday, and that’s only because the ACC has, for all intents and purposes, two members on the selection committee: outgoing chairman Mike Bobinski, who is about to leave Xavier to become athletic director at Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest Athletic Director Ron Wellman, who is the incoming chairman. If the two of them use their influence to make a blatantly political pick, then Virginia has a chance.