Pack Chasing Physical, Mental Health

A spate of subpar play, combined with a rash of sickness and injuries, has knocked the Pack into a three-game losing skid. Coach Herb Sendek is looking for his players to regain confidence in both their physical conditions and ability to play as a team as conference play continues.

Forgive Pack coach Herb Sendek if he didn't have the time or energy to indulge a reporter's request to rank the Tobacco Road venues in terms of difficulty to play in.

"I'll leave the rankings to you, OK?" Sendek said. "I've got my hands full just coaching the Wolfpack."

Sendek also wasn't in the mood to discuss the pros and cons of an ACC schedule that has made the round-robin format obsolete and created scenarios where some teams don't play twice.

"Once again, there's no use wasting any more tire tread on that point, because expansion made that no longer a feasible possibility," he said.

In addition, Sendek wasn't thrilled to be asked to break down the reasons for NC State's three-game losing streak for the umpteenth time. Is the main cause injuries or poor play, Coach?

"Everybody seemingly has asked me that same question, and it's really impossible to quantify," Sendek said. "The way I've tried to answer it over the last couple of weeks is by making two true statements. One, our health has been poor – that's a true statement. And the other true statement is we have to play better than we have. How much one has affected the other is purely speculative.

"It's a bottom-line competition, and we can't use the misfortune we've had with our health as any type of excuse. But at the same time, I think we do recognize that some guys have had to battle through some injuries and some illness that makes playing to your best harder than it ordinarily is.

"We still have a lot of the season to go. We haven't been our best the past couple of weeks for a number of reasons."

The coach said that his team has displayed resiliency in dealing with a flu bug that has swept the team, in addition to a number of nagging injuries. While he knows his squad needed some time to get over a last-second loss at Miami on Sunday – repeatedly noting that "losing is never easy" -- he wants them to also recognize that turning around a difficult stretch can always be one game away.

"We've obviously just endured a pretty tough stretch," said Sendek. "Yesterday we played a very hard-fought game against a good Miami team and lost a heartbreaker, and we're going to do everything we can right now to regroup and refocus and move forward.

"Yesterday's loss was a difficult one. Losing is never easy, and our guys battled through a heavy dose of adversity here recently and fought hard to try to have a chance to win yesterday and obviously were right there at the end and didn't complete that mission. That's hard; that's hard to swallow. Losing is never easy. But we have to be resilient and we have to turn around quickly and get ready for another great challenge on Thursday night [vs. Duke].

"When you lose, there's always disappointment, there's always frustration. You invest so much of yourself into every single game, when you don't achieve your mission, you don't feel good about it. And I think there's always a short amount of time when you need to gather yourself, but then you have to move beyond that, after that cooling-off period, and you have to get ready and get refocused for the next game."

The news on the injury front hasn't improved much. To go with two bouts of the flu, a case of colitis and losing 15 pounds, redshirt junior guard Tony Bethel has developed the gout in his foot due to dehydration, relegating him to crutches this week. Senior swingman Julius Hodge continues to get treatment for both a sore ankle and back spasms, knocking him out of a normal practice routine.

True to form, Sendek won't use the physical setbacks as excuses. Instead, he's confident that the worst of the problems is behind the Pack, and his team can get back to displaying the form that had it ranked in the top 10 earlier in the campaign.

"Once again, it's kind of beating the same drum and you hate to continue to go down that road, but I think there's a two-pronged attack for our team," said Sendek. "One, we have to continue to try to get better physically; with our treatment, with time, hopefully our health will come around.

"And as quickly as we say that, we know that we also have to get better as a basketball team -- and I'm sure, at least to some degree, the two go hand-in-hand."

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