Notebook: Scrutiny Is 'Foolishness'

DALLAS, TX -- This victory was an important one for Herb Sendek.

Under scrutiny all week, his players didn't let the negative attention distract them from the task at hand, and neither did Sendek. As always, the Wolfpack head coach praised his players following the victory, while his seniors praised him.

"I certainly couldn't be prouder of our entire team," said Sendek. "I thought our guys just showed tremendous character tonight, beating an excellent California team. They maintained their poise, and I thought they played with a great deal of grit and determination.

"It's always good to be on the bus with these guys."

"It's not just this game," Tony Bethel said of the negative attention. "He's been here the last five seasons and that statement, that column, whatever it was, was foolish, and we paid no mind to it. We all love him. He's a big influence on our lives and what we do on the court. We just look at it as foolishness. It's nonsense, we don't pay it no mind."

"All of this is just a distraction from the media," Ilian Evtimov added. "We're not going to let that affect us. We're going to believe in what we do, and at the end of the day that is what is going to make us successful."

As for the suggestion that Sendek might be leaving at the end of the season, Cameron Bennerman's response was short and direct.

"It's not going to happen."

Sendek was asked what sense of vindication he got with the victory or what sense of anger he had by the mere fact that he would need vindication.

"I don't have any of those," he responded.

A win Saturday would be especially sweet for Sendek and his coaching staff, as defeating Texas would give the Wolfpack its second straight Sweet 16 appearance.

Sendek's Decision Pays Off
Cal's Leon 'The Show' Powe came in with a huge reputation as being one of the nation's elite frontcourt players, and he flashed his skills against the Wolfpack. However, NC State center Cedric Simmons never really let him get going, as the Wolfpack used a team effort to slow down the 6-foot-7, 240-pound power forward.

"I thought we played excellent team defense for 40 minutes tonight," said Sendek. "Cedric drew Powe most of the night, but I thought the other guys were aware of where he was and did a good job of helping to him.

"He really is a sensational player."

Cedric Simmons
Simmons and company limited Powe to just 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field. He added 12 rebounds, but didn't dominate the game as some media members believed he would prior to the contest.

"It always seemed there were people in the lane waiting for me," Powe said after the game. "They wouldn't allow me to get the ball where I wanted and that made it tough."

The decision of the game might have been the move Sendek chose not to make early in the second half. After Powe knocked down a jumper, Simmons was called for a charge, his third foul. Sendek had a decision to make, and he chose to leave Simmons in the game. The sophomore held Powe without a field goal over the final 16 minutes, as he scored just four points, all free throws, the remainder of the way.

"I looked up at the clock and I said, 'Wow there is a lot of time left for Ced to have three.' I kind of played ping-pong in my own mind with what to do with that," said Sendek. "Given where we were, we rolled the dice and elected to stay with Ced anyways.

"He did a great job of continuing to play very well against a great player and without fouling."

Simmons finished with 12 points and six boards, but his presence was felt more than the stats indicated, as he canceled 'The Show' late Friday night.

Bennerman, Bethel Step Up
Tourney time is when you need your seniors to come up big, and Cameron Bennerman and Tony Bethel did just that for NC State. First it was Bethel, who drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key that gave NC State a 47-44 lead after a ridiculous shot by Omar Wilkes tied the score at 44. Bethel's shot proved big, as the Wolfpack would never trail again.

"I think that was a key play in today's game," he said. "Them hitting a crazy shot like that and then us coming down. I got an open look, and I was able to knock it down."

"I thought Tony Bethel did an extraordinary job all night long providing us leadership," said Sendek. "When you looked into his eyes, when you heard his voice, he provided that calm reassurance that a team needs in a tough game, on a stage like this.

"I'm not surprised he stepped up and made the shot he did. He just had a tremendous disposition tonight all the way around."

Bennerman's big shot came much later, in the game's final minute.

After an initial jumper was blocked out of bounds by Powe, the Wolfpack used a timeout to set up a play. The ball was eventually swung to Bennerman in the corner, and the senior guard used a pump-fake to get the defender out of position and drilled a 3-pointer over the out-stretched arms of Theo Robertson to give the Wolfpack a 55-52 lead with just 32 seconds left.

Plenty of time remained on the clock, but Ayinde Ubaka came down and rushed a 3-pointer that missed the rim and was rebounded by Gavin Grant, who knocked down two free throws to seal the victory for the Wolfpack.

"We ran a couple of plays to try and get a good shot," Bennerman said. "With the shot clock running down, we swung it around and the guy ran out wreckless. I just pump-faked, drove, and pulled up for the 3. It was an open look."

"It's not complicated," said Sendek. "You need special players to step up and make plays, and Cameron has been that guy for us throughout the season. Tonight he was really special.

"Down the home stretch, he certainly made the field goals that allowed us to have the lead we finished with."

Texas has plenty of firepower in the backcourt, and NC State will need another strong effort from Bethel and Bennerman. Expect the two seniors to bring it Sunday afternoon.

Parting Shots
The Wolfpack turned up the intensity in the second half, specifically on the defensive end. After allowing Cal to shoot 52% in the first half, NC State limited the Golden Bears to just 33% and 23 points over the final 20 minutes... Freshman Courtney Fells gave the Pack a boost, as in five minutes he tallied four points... Richard Midgley ended the Wolfpack's season three years ago when he hit a 3-pointer in the final seconds to win the first round NCAA game, but he was a non-factor this time around, finishing with three points on 1-of-6 shooting... The Wolfpack will face No. 2 seed Texas at 4:35 Sunday afternoon. Expect a lot of Longhorn fans to fill the American Airlines Center. NC State had a small contingent cheering them on against Cal, but this will be a virtual home game for the Longhorns.

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