By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Sometimes being a sports expert in the eyes of the public isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Take Monday night. Please.
Prior to West Virginia’s game with Texas, after studying all the numbers and watching warmups, your erstwhile sports columnist offered this via Twitter:
“Prediction: Big nite for Eron Harris vs. Texas. If I'm wrong, don't bother letting me know. I'll be well aware of it.”
Well, I was wrong … about as wrong as you can be … and I’m aware of it.
As is Harris.
See, my thinking was that Harris had been slumping lately but that Texas gave him the perfect opportunity to come out of it. With Juwan Staten and Terry Henderson having the hot hand in his place, they would have to defend them.
That would make things easier for Harris, and considering that Texas is the worst defense against the 3 in the Big 12, it wasn’t hard to envision Harris raining 3s on them as if he were Hurricane Eron.
Instead he continued his drought at its worst, making … well, not making any 3s.
He would finish 3 for 11 shooting with a season-low six points before fouling out.
Not that this should surprise anyone. I’m a guy who once bet eight NFL games in one day … and lost all eight.
Harris is now 4 for his last 24 in 3-point shooting, going 3 for 11 against Texas Tech, 1 for 6 against Oklahoma State and 0 for 7 against Texas.
So, after the game, there we were, Eron Harris and me in the club area where interviews take place, looking at each other eyeball to eyeball, me trying to feel compassion for him as he had to be deeply troubled at the moment and him, I believe, feeling the compassion he had.
There was a pregnant pause as we looked at each other his eyes saying “Go ahead, ask what you got to ask” and me trying to find a way to ask it without coming up with something like “Geez, that was awful, wasn’t it?”
So I asked him how he felt inside, pointing toward my belly, which is something he could not miss.
“I feel a lot inside of me … frustration, a lot of thoughts like what’s the answer for me, individually and what’s the answer for us. How can I get myself back going? What is the answer for us because, honestly, I’m tired of losing. There’s a lot of things inside me.”
And what’s inside of him hurts like a nail being driven through him.
“I missed shot after shot after shot after shot. It never got going for me and it’s the most frustrating thing in the world,” he said. “Two years ago I would probably have started crying in the game and tell my coach to take me out of the game. I tried to stay level emotionally and keep shooting my shot. That happens for individual players and I guess for a lot of us today.”
It wasn’t just Harris, of course. In fact, from the time Terry Henderson gave them a 3-0 lead until Nathan Adrian scored a 3 with 9:17 left, they missed 15 consecutive 3s.
“All of them were on line. They were just short, every single one,” Harris said. “Most of the time when we missed shots, we weren’t jumping high enough. We have to start bending our knees more and shooting it. We just came off that game against Oklahoma State and then practice. Of course we’re not going to have perfect legs.”
That sounded as if it made sense … except to Coach Bob Huggins.
“We were here yesterday. We watched a lot of film, we walked through some stuff and we practiced a little. They weren’t on their feet more than an hour. They were bouncy,” Huggins said.
“What I get a kick out of is that they all want to play in the NBA. As we know, they play 86 games in the NBA and maybe 100 if you’re in the playoffs. When they’re done, they go run on the treadmill to make sure that they’re in shape after they play 40 minutes. It’s not like they have a lot of time off. All of our players want to get to that, but this is hard for them,” Huggins continued.
“When our season is over, they haven’t even reached the All-Star break (in the NBA). I know the game is longer and faster, too, so if they can’t do this, they won’t be able to play in the NBA.”
Especially if the best they can do is make 4 of 25 3s against Texas.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel