WVU basketball: Harris wants the ball more
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Eron Harris would like to make one thing very clear.
"I'm not a selfish person," said the sophomore, who leads West Virginia in scoring and who has taken the most shots and 3-pointers in the first 10 games of the season. "By far, I'm not a selfish person."
Yet Harris wanted to be just as certain about another point following Tuesday's 80-76 loss to No. 20 Gonzaga, West Virginia's 14th consecutive loss to a ranked team. After scoring 18 points on 10 shots in the first half, Harris felt like he should have had more than five points on five shots in the second half.
"You've got Kobe. What do they do? They screen for Kobe," Harris said. "I'm not saying I'm Kobe, but I feel like I had a good enough half to be an option in the second half."
Harris was out of sorts and out of the game for much of last week's loss to Missouri. He scored a season-low six points on 3-for-6 shooting in 19 minutes. In the first 20 minutes against the Bulldogs, Harris was 6-for-10 from the floor and 4-for-6 from 3-point range. The Mountaineers (6-4) led 39-35 at the half, even though his teammates were 6-for-22 from the floor and 2-for-11 from 3-point range.
Harris went 10:02 between shots in the second half and 16:12 between baskets against a Gonzaga defense that was calibrated at halftime. His layup gave WVU a 45-37 lead with 17:40 to go. His 3 with 1:28 remaining cut Gonzaga's lead to 76-72.
"Everyone's going to try to take me out of the offense," Harris said. "That doesn't mean I just don't get the ball."
The Bulldogs (9-1) played a 1-1-3 zone throughout the second half. They planted 7-foot-1, 295-pound center Przemek Karnowski in the middle and used the outside players to extend the zone and hound Harris as he moved around the floor. Less attention was given to guard Gary Browne and forward Devin Williams. They shot a combined 4-for-19, including 3-for-14 in the second half. The other six players took 21 shots after halftime.
"They did a great job knowing where he was," Coach Bob Huggins said. "What they basically said was, 'He's not going to beat us. Some other guys are going to have to beat us.' So they didn't guard some of our guys."
Harris, who after Huggins is inarguably the team's most outspoken critic after wins or losses, didn't think quite as highly of Gonzaga's game plan. He was more troubled by the direction his team took in the second half.
"There are things to get people open," he said. "Somebody needs to ball screen or just pass it. I just feel like I probably need to be more assertive from now on. I guess that's just it."
Harris said he'll talk to his teammates about his frustration because "we've got to address it," but his teammates were already on the same page.
"We have to have the mindset where if he's got the hot hand, we've got to get him the ball somehow," forward Kevin Noreen said. "I actually heard one of their assistant coaches say we didn't share the ball enough. I think that's a sign we didn't find him when we needed to."
Making matters worse for WVU was that the Bulldogs had no trouble getting the ball to their best player when they had to. Kevin Pangos, the top scorer on the team that's No. 1 nationally in field-goal and 3-point percentage, was 3-for-10 in the first half and took only two shots in the first 14 minutes of the second half.
He then closed with a 4-for-5 flourish in the final 5:36, including 3s on three straight possessions in just 1:50 to give the Bulldogs a 74-66 lead.
"The first one, we acted like we didn't know who he was," Huggins said. "There was nobody around him."
The second and third 3s were set plays where teammates set screens for Pangos to get open along the sideline. WVU didn't work around the screens or help the screened defender.
"Everyone in the country knows when Gonzaga needs points, they go to Pangos," point guard Juwan Staten said. "You can ask somebody who doesn't know basketball and if they watch Gonzaga they know Pangos is going to shoot the ball. It's unbelievable the five guys on the court didn't know he was going to shoot the ball."
Harris made his first 3 of the second half to make it a 76-72 game and a second steal in as many possessions by Nathan Adrian set Harris up for an easy layup, but Harris was smartly fouled by David Stockton before Harris could get free for a layup. Huggins pleaded for an intentional foul call, which would have given Harris two free throws and WVU possession with 1:15 remaining. Harris was instead awarded free throws and he missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Soon enough, the Mountaineers were back in their locker room listening to another lecture after another game they could have won.
"I don't remember the conversation," Harris said. "My head was down and my eyes were closed. I was in another world because I'm so mad right now."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.