Wake Forest will receive another test in that department when it visits North Carolina State on Saturday. It's a matter of by physical toughness and mental toughness for the Demon Deacons, who have lost three consecutive games and six of their last seven after Tuesday night's 68-53 setback to visiting North Carolina.
While the result against North Carolina wasn't surprising, the toll of the defeats for a team that has trouble matching up physically in some games is bound to be grinding on the Demon Deacons.
In areas such as rebounding, it's taking time for the Demon Deacons to adjust.
"Our players are getting stronger," coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "They're mad about (the rebounding shortcomings). They're doing a better job of it."
The Demon Deacons lost by 36 points in the first meeting with N.C. State -- and that came at home. Wake Forest has lost in its last six visits to Raleigh.
Even Wake Forest's improved rebounding will receive a challenge from the Wolfpack, as N.C. State junior forward Richard Howell has been a one-man force at times in the lane.
The Demon Deacons won two of nine games in January, and they open February with three of the first five games on the road.
STAR WATCH: Sophomore forward Travis McKie is finding more rough patches within the conference than he experienced at some junctures of his first season, and it might be a result of teams concentrating on him even more.
He has taken his shortcomings particularly hard, and it appears he carries an extra burden when he's unable to lift his team, particularly when he's had rough shooting outings. One of the low points came in the loss to North Carolina State, which is the Demon Deacons' next opponent, because he was ejected from that game for a flagrant elbow.
He's counted on for nearly 35 minutes per game, and he'll need to provide an uptick at the offensive end if Wake Forest is going to get back on track.
McKie's scoring drop another issue for Wake
Travis McKie is one of the catalysts for the Demon Deacons and he's counted on for just about everything from scoring to rebounding to leadership.
But in his last two home games through the weekend, he managed a total of five points. He has taken the burden on himself.
"I didn't do a good job like my team needs me to," said McKie, who still ranked in the top five in scoring this season in the ACC at that point.
Yet McKie's sudden unexpected dips have given something else for coach Jeff Bzdelik to address with what's already considered a fragile team at times.
"I told him, 'Put it behind you and move forward,'" Bzdelik said.
So this figures to be a key week for McKie as he tries to re-establish himself. There's a home game against North Carolina, which has a towering front line that McKie will have to contend with. Then there's a rematch at North Carolina State, which first exposed McKie and created his initial round of serious frustration within the conference.
Without McKie, who's averaging 16.5 points per game, the Demon Deacons are nearly void of interior scoring punch. He has moved to the perimeter at times, where he finds more room. However, he was shooting a combined 1-for-7 on 3-point attempts in the past two games through Jan. 29.
-- It was a busy month of January for the Demon Deacons, who played their ninth game of the month on Jan. 31 when North Carolina visited. This marked the first time since 2007 the Demon Deacons had been so busy in January.
BY THE NUMBERS: 20 -- Games in which junior G C.J. Harris had scored in double figures through Jan. 29.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We don't screen well to get people open and we just have to play better." -- Coach Jeff Bzdelik, whose team has reached the 70-point plateau in only two of its last eight games through Jan. 29. The Demon Deacons lost one of those games.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAMES:
--at N.C. State, Feb. 4
KEY MATCHUPS: The Demon Deacons absorbed a 36-point loss in the first meeting, when F Travis McKie never got untracked and eventually was ejected for a flagrant elbow. N.C. State has the ability to push the pace on a team such as Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons could be in position to match the Wolfpack in the depth department.
-- Junior G C.J. Harris has a streak of 21 consecutive games of double-figure scoring. That's the most for a Wake Forest player since Jeff Teague, who ended his career in 2009 with 35 games in a row with a double-digit total. Harris became the 48th player in the program's history to reach the 1,000-point mark by scoring 19 points Tuesday night against North Carolina. He has exactly 1,000 after that game.
-- Freshman G Chase Fischer failed to hit a 3-point shot for the first time in a conference game during the team's loss to North Carolina on Tuesday night. He had notched at least one 3-point basket in each of the first seven ACC games until going 0-for-4 against the Tar Heels.
However, coach Jeff Bzdelik said there's more to what Fischer can do than score, adding that the guard's passing has a tendency to be underappreciated.
"I think he might be our best passer," Bzdelik said. "He sees the floor very well. He makes some really tough passes with his left hand."