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WVU basketball: Eron Harris frustrated with shooting struggles

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - This time last week, Bob Huggins knew Eron Harris was in a bad place, but the West Virginia coach reserved the right to be optimistic his star scorer could shoot his way out of a prolonged funk.

Harris had earned that through a season-and-a-half with Huggins.

"I thought he was really bad against Texas Tech, and he got 18," Huggins said before the team's loss to Oklahoma State and after a win against the Red Raiders when Harris was 3-for-11 from 3-point range. "He's a guy who it doesn't seem like it bothers him as much as it does other people."

That might not be true any longer. Harris has shot the ball poorly from 3-point range for three consecutive games and has had one good game in the past seven. The sophomore who led the team in scoring last season and was leading the Big 12 earlier this season enters Saturday's 1:30 p.m. game at Kansas State averaging a season-low 17.4 points per game.

His head is filled with more doubt than confidence and more questions than answers. That more than missed jumpers is an indication he's not himself.

"There is a lot inside of me," he said. "Frustration is one thing. I've got a lot of thoughts, wondering what the answer is. What's the answer for me? What's the answer for us? How can I get myself going again?"

Solutions will not come easily against the Wildcats (13-4, 3-1 Big 12) and the conference's best defense. They lead the Big 12 in scoring defense (60.1 points per game) and 3-point percentage defense (26.7) and rank second in the conference in field-goal percentage defense (39.9).

Harris is coming off the worst 3-point shooting performance of his career and a season-low six points. He missed all seven of his 3-point attempts in Monday's loss to Texas, and Huggins said Harris hasn't been making shots in practice, either.

"I missed shot after shot after shot after shot," Harris said. "I never got going. It's the most frustrating things. Two years ago, I probably would have started crying in the game and told the coach, 'Take me out of the game. I don't want to go back in.'"

His 3-point shooting percentage has dropped from 53.3 percent when WVU was 5-2 following its loss to Wisconsin to 40 percent as the Mountaineers look to end a two-game losing streak. The Mountaineers (10-7, 2-2) are 5-5 since the loss to the Badgers and Harris has shot 31.7 percent from 3-point range.

Harris hates the word slump and cringes when he hears it, but even he admits there isn't a more suitable synonym.

"I guess if there was any word you could use," he said, "it's that one."

His struggles are the consequence of his success. Harris isn't a secret much like he isn't the player who averaged 9.8 points per game last season. A 33-point night against Duquesne in the third game of the season and a 7-for-11 3-point performance four games later against Wisconsin took care of that.

That said, some of the trouble has to do with his teammates. Terry Henderson's minutes and shots have increased across the past 10 games and that limits the need for Harris to do as much as he did before. There hasn't been much other support on the perimeter, though, with Gary Browne, Nathan Adrian and Remi Dibo missing 25 of 31 3-point shots the past three games.

"I'm getting open shots," said Harris, who has shot above 50 percent from 2-point range (34-for-62) the past 10 games. "The shots I'm taking are the shots I usually take. I'm just doing something different these last couple of games to where my shot isn't swishing, isn't going in. I've got to figure that out soon, as fast as I can, and not get down."

The Wildcats, who are 9-1 with eight straight wins at Bramlage Coliseum this season, have allowed 20 players to make more than one 3-pointer in their 17 games this season. Only six made more than half their attempts and no one has made more than four. Harris was 1-for-3 in two losses to Kansas State as a freshman.

"I'm always telling him, 'Stay confident. You (were) the No. 1 scorer in the Big 12. That doesn't happen by accident. It happens because you put the work in and because you're making shots,'" point guard Juwan Staten said. "It should be a routine thing now, but everyone goes through slumps. He just needs to get himself out of it."

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu.


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