By Matt Sugam
PISCATAWAY – Myles Mack left Piscataway for Christmas break on a tear. The sophomore guard was as hot as he’s ever been in his young career. But when Mack returned from Paterson on Christmas night, he’d come back cold.
As Mack settled back into his dorm, a head cold settled in on him, and he’s been battling it ever since. After averaging 15.9 points through the first 10 games, Mack scored just one point against Rider and was held scoreless at Syracuse.
“Myles struggled in every aspect last night, defensively and offensively,” head coach Mike Rice said after Thursday’s practice. “You’re going to have that in college basketball, and you’ve got to bounce back.”
While Rice is well aware that his team’s second leading scorer was playing sick, he won’t pinpoint that as the reason for Mack’s struggles.
“I know he had a cold the other day, but people have to play with that,” Rice said. “They have to play with colds and being sick.”
And the 5-foot-9, 165-pound point guard isn’t going to use a head cold as an excuse either.
“It’s not really affecting me,” Mack told SNY.tv through still stuffed sinuses. “It’s getting to me a little bit, but that’s not an excuse I’m trying to give. I’m just trying to go out there and play my best basketball. I haven’t been playing that great these past two games, but I’ll get back.”
And to Mack, doing so isn’t complicated.
Aside from taking a lot of medicine and getting a lot of rest so he can shake off his head cold, he simply has to start playing well again.
“It’s just I have to play better basketball,” Mack said. “I don’t think the teams are stopping me from doing anything I usually do. It’s just me getting in my own way.”
Despite his recent struggles after such a strong start thanks to his illness, Mack isn’t frustrated.
“It happens to everybody. I’m just trying to bounce back the best way I can. That’s it,” Mack said, adding, “I just have to get over the hump.”
And over his illness.
His next chance to do so will be Saturday morning when Rutgers (9-3, 0-1 Big East) hosts No. 24 Pittsburgh (12-2, 0-1 Big East) in their Big East home opener at the RAC. By then, Mack hopes to be 100 percent healthy, and back to playing the kind of basketball he was the first 10 games of the season.
“I don’t know what Saturday is going to bring,” Mack said. “I’m just trying to play the best basketball that I can play.”