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Harris' Confidence on Display in WVU Loss

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STILLWATER, Okla. -

Eron Harris is not one to lack confidence. It just isn't his style. So when he met with the media following West Virginia's 81-75 loss at Oklahoma State, a certain statement he made caught the attention of those gathered.

"This game is probably the most confidence I've ever played with this season and probably ever. I just wanted to help my team," said Harris.

Harris certainly helped the team while he was on the court. He scored one point per minute that he was in the lineup. The problem is he was only in for 21 minutes.

That's more than nine minutes less than his season average and just two minutes shy of his season low and it was clear in the result on the scoreboard that WVU could have used its leading scorer for longer than he was able to contribute.

"When we lose Eron, it's hard," said head coach Bob Huggins. "Losing Eron for us is like them losing Marcus Smart."

Only in this one, the loss of Harris hurt the road team far more than the home team suffered from Smart's absence.

Without Harris in the game, the Mountaineers gave up a 10-0 run to close out the first half. With him in the opening minutes of the second, he nailed two 3-pointers and connected on three free throws and quickly pulled WVU back even less than four minutes in.

He subbed out with four fouls when the team had a two-point lead and by the time Huggins pulled the trigger to get Harris back in, West Virginia faced a six-point deficit.

Meanwhile, Smart didn't get his first – and only – bucket of the day until there were just five minutes remaining and his team was already up by seven. He played 25 minutes and managed just four points, his season low and just one above his career low.

It was the eighth time in Smart's career that he was held under 10 points and oddly enough, Oklahoma State has won all eight.

West Virginia doesn't win if Harris scores less than 10. It hasn't happened in two instances this season and WVU only won a handful of times when he failed to reach the plateau as a developing freshman.

"He's supposed to be this big thing and he's a human being just like me," Harris said of Smart after the game.

Juwan Staten, the counterpart at point guard who finished with 19 points and four assists, provided his own explanation for why the Cowboys performed better without their All-American on the court.

"I think when Smart plays, he dominates the ball," said Staten. "He's a great player, he needs the ball in his hands, he makes the team go, but I think when he's off the court or he's not getting it going other players step up."

WVU frustrated Smart the entire time he was in the game, which resulted in the sophomore throwing a tantrum of sorts, punching the padding under the basket and kicking a chair after he was subbed out.

An OSU fan within earshot could be heard saying, "He's a nice guy, I swear."

Conversely, when Harris fouled out, he galloped away from the action, arms raised as though confused by the call and ultimately he played the role of cheerleader for the remaining minutes.

"To me, it didn't matter if I was sitting," said Harris. "We've got enough good players to win with anybody in the game. Our walk-ons even got to play today and I've got 100 percent confidence in all of our players. I was just telling them, it really doesn't matter who was in the game. We had the game regardless."

Only they didn't. When the Mountaineers needed a shot, they had to rely on freshman Nathan Adrian. Harris was the first of four players to foul out for the home team as the game slipped away late.

"I felt like I did everything I needed to do, that I could. I played my hardest and I hit my shots and I played confident and I cheered my teammates on and I felt like we were still going to win that game," Harris said after WVU fell to 11-9 overall and 3-4 in the Big 12. "I'm just a piece of the puzzle like anybody else."

Harris is a player who once compared himself to Kobe Bryant before backtracking a little, but he never shies away from expressing his belief in his own ability.

If Saturday's performance was the result of his confidence being at an all-time high, the Mountaineers could use him bringing that attitude to every game from this point on.

The fouls, not so much. 

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