By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
MORGANTOWN — Lack of a player averaging double figures in scoring this late in a season on the West Virginia men’s struggling basketball team must be shocking to fans.
That has to be a major reason the Mountaineers are 13-15 overall and 6-9 in the Big 12 Conference standings with just three regular-season games remaining.
You need to go all the way back to the 1943-44 season to find a WVU team that didn’t have a scorer in double digits for a season.
Harry Lothes, a former WVU player, took over as head coach that year and literally started from scratch with all new players. Everyone from the previous squad either had graduated or were called for military service in World War II.
That team finished with an 8-11 record.
Even as much surprising this year is the fact that a freshman from Indianapolis, Ind., leads the scoring. Eron Harris, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound guard, tallied a career high 25 points in Wednesday night’s tough loss to Baylor, 65-62, in front of only 6, 588 fans at the Coliseum.
This outstanding performance hiked Harris’ total points to 251 and his season’s average to a mere 9.3 per game.
For 27 outings, including only 13 starts, Harris also made 76 of 174 shots (.437 percent), 37 of 100 from 3-point range (.323 percent) and 62 of 82 free throws (.756 percent).
He also has 53 rebounds, 21 assists, 20 steals, and three blocked shots.
Harris, who’s playing 20.2 minutes per game, shot 50 percent from the field (7-14) and cashed 10 of 13 free throws against Baylor (17-11, 8-7 Big 12).
“I shot pretty well (Wednesday night), but they (Baylor) shut off the backdoor (drives),” Harris said. “We played hard, though, and we competed well (against the Bears)—better than we have all year.
“We just fell short. That’s pretty much the story of our year.”
Coach Bob Huggins, who obviously was pleased with Harris’ production, thought his team did a better job of executing.
He said, “We got shots. We got pretty good shots. I thought the guys we had on the floor did a good job of executing.
“We just didn’t make shots.” He might have added, Especially in the last minute when the game was on the line.
WVU sophomore Juwan Staten said of teammate Harris, “Eron does a great job fulfilling his role. He comes in, he shoots the ball well. He gives us some scoring. But other than that, it does seem that as a team we do have an identity.”
Behind Harris in the updated scoring averages for this season are 6-foot-10 junior center Aaric Murray and senior forward Deniz Kilicli at 8.8 p.p.g. each.
Staten is fourth at 8.9, senior guard Jabarie Hinds and freshman guard Terry Henderson follow at 7.5 each.
As a squad, the Mountaineers average 65.6 points per game and opponents 66.1 per game.
Harris has scored 10 or more points in 10 games as a Mountaineer so far.
The Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, trying to halt a three-game losing streak at Kansas. Tipoff time is 2 p.m. CBS is televising the game.
The Jayhawks (24-4, 12-3 Big 12) are tied with Kansas State (23-5, 12-3 Big 12) for first place in the conference.
WVU then visits Oklahoma on March 6 before hosting Iowa State next Saturday here in the regular-season finale.