Pack looking to grow in December

NC State is still trying to find its identity as the team enters December. The Wolfpack will face Illinois Tuesday in its first true road game of the season.

NC State enters the final week of November with a 5-1 record and six of its next eight games at home. The possibility of entering ACC play with momentum and a solid overall record is real.

The process towards the conference slate will require growth and quick adjustment.

If Terry Henderson is counted as a "new player" -- which is not a silly concept considering he played only six minutes last season -- six of the eight players who had time on the court in the Wolfpack's 79-77 win over Loyola-Chicago Saturday are new and did not play for NC State during the 2015-16 campaign.

Then there is the matter of adding Maverick Rowan back to the developing team if and when he is cleared to play after suffering a concussion along with Omer Yurtseven making his debut once his nine-game suspension ends.

The Wolfpack ends November with its first true road game of the campaign as NC State faces Illinois in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The final game of the calendar year will be in Coral Gables, Florida as the Pack takes on Miami in its ACC opener on New Year's Day.

"We're trying to figure out who we are," NC State head coach Mark Gottfried said following the Wolfpack's win over Loyola. "We play four guards, then two bigs, then four guards.  We've got to figure that out. Ted is now eligible, hopefully Maverick is coming back soon, and two or three more games down the road we'll get Omer in here."

The two-point win over the Ramblers was the second home victory by that margin for NC State. The Wolfpack opened the regular season with a 79-77 triumph over Georgia Southern.

Prior to the season it seemed that NC State's non-conference schedule was not as grueling as it had been in the past and Gottfried attributed that to some of the roster uncertainty.

The games have not been a walk in the park for the Wolfpack. There has been lapses defensively and Gottfried feels the teams that NC State has faced have quality. He hopes they improve on their journey as well.

"I don't know if it's tougher [than expected]" Gottfried said of the early season slate. "When we scheduled Loyola, part of the Paradise Jam was we'd get another game. We knew ahead of time that this was going to be a really good, well-coached team. I like playing teams like that, but I hope everybody we play ends up a great, 20-win team and helps our RPI.

"At the same time, I hope we keep getting better so we don't struggle at times. Both things need to happen."

The seven-game stretch before conference play starts Tuesday in Champaign. NC State will hope the journey to discovering its identity, the meshing of players as they return and the melding of all the new talent results in a solid season.

"It is very important," Henderson said. "We have got to get it together and fix some things that we need to work on and get better at it. Moving [closer] to ACC play, it is going to be exciting. We are just going to keep practicing hard and working with Coach Gottfried and coaches to work on the things we need to get better at."

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