KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Looking beyond the terrific barbecue and horrendous Major League Baseball, this town is lesser known for its motto “Per aspera ad astra,” which translates to “Through hardships to the stars.”

That Latin snippet also could apply to Texas Tech and West Virginia, teams who have experienced plenty of hardships this season — one that likely will end unless the stars align for a four-day miracle run at the Sprint Center.

“This is a new season. Everything in the past doesn’t matter anymore,” said freshman guard Eron Harris, who averages a team-high 9.9 points for West Virginia (13-18, 6-12). After five consecutive NCAA tournament bids, the Mountaineers can only earn a sixth by winning the Big 12 tournament. That begins with Wednesday night’s first-round game against Texas Tech (10-19, 3-15), which would precede a quarterfinal matchup Thursday against top-seeded Kansas.

“It’s all up to us, what we want to do,” Harris said. “We just have to do it collectively as a team. We have the pieces to the puzzle, and if we go out and play hard and physical — like Huggins wants us to do — it’s possible.”

Of course this team hasn’t done what Bob Huggins wanted it to do very often. Hence, the coach’s repeated complaints about players lining up incorrectly on offense and failing to guard with enough intensity on defense. That has led WVU to this week’s one-and-done situation, where the conference tourney is a last chance at salvaging something respectable. Huggins said he doesn’t have a sense of whether his squad, losers of six straight games, can suddenly ascend to a level of consistency that would allow them to cut down the nets in Kansas City.

“We’ve very rarely been in a situation where we needed a second chance,” Huggins said. “We’ve pretty much gone into conference tournaments knowing we’re going to be in the NCAA tournament.”

HARRIS ON DISPLAY
Harris, a lightly heralded recruit who has quickly developed into the Mountaineers’ top scorer, suggested following Tuesday’s workout that he didn’t foresee becoming such a crucial contributor so fast.

“This is big for me, because I never thought that me, individually, would get to this point and play in the Big 12 tournament,” he said. “But I’m here and I’m a pretty big part of the team.”

Harris might have made the Big 12 All-Freshman team, if one existed. Instead, the league prefers an All-Rookie team, which allowed for the inclusion of all transfers and newcomers, such as Iowa State senior Will Clyburn and Oklahoma junior Amath M’Baye.

Upon WVU’s half-hour inside the 18,72-seat Sprint Center, Harris sized up the shooting environment.

“It’s a pretty big background, so the depth-of-field is kind of different,” he said. “But I don’t consider myself a shooter, I’m a scorer, so I’ll find a way to score.”

Joe Sadlek/All-Pro Photography

Jaye Crockett scored 18 points in Texas Tech’s 66-64 loss at West Virginia.

RED RAIDERS
While Texas Tech fell 77-61 to WVU in Lubbock on Feb. 2, the Red Raiders nearly pulled a stunner in Morgantown, rallying from 10 points down to lose 66-64 when Josh Gray missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“They fight,” Harris said. “Especially from that second game you see that they do have some fight in them, and we can’t take them for granted. We’re both on the same page and we have to win this tournament to do anything.”

Said Huggins of the Mountaineers narrow escape at home: “They made a huge comeback and we were lucky to hang on.”

Tech is led by junior 6-foot-7 forward Jaye Crockett (11.9), the only player on either team scoring in double figures. Crockett, who has come off the bench in all but four games this season, has averaged 15.5 points against WVU on 11-of-20 shooting and 7.5 rebounds.

MOUNTAINEERS FANS?
West Virginia carried sizable contingents to Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament, but this year’s losing record and moving to the Big 12 venue halfway across the country could curb the following.

Huggins said he had no idea how many WVU fans might attend this week: “It got to the point we had huge crowds in New York, but that’s so much closer. Our people generally follow pretty good, but being middle of the week, I don’t know.”

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Comments

  • Shawn

    It's fans like you and Larry who show the team/state no support. If you dont like it then dont watch or comment about it.

    • tw eagle

      RAH , RAH , sis boom bah . . .i love 20 loss seasons . . and i love a coach who gets paid 3+ mil a year to give them to us . . .

      if you think higgins can recruit out of this slide , i got a bridge in brooklyn that you might want buy . . .

    • Big Larry

      little shawn,

      You stated earlier you were no longer going to reply to my comments but here you go again...you are weak little shawn and unable to handle factual truth.

      Please quit reading the comments in this forum...it's too upsetting to you...

      You obviously can not run with the Big dogs because you whine about everything which is said...So quit getting off the porch & leave the conversation to the adults.

  • Jethro

    Is it me or does most college teams lack a lot of talent these days? Even the Indiana Michigan game there were a bunch of bone head mistakes made in the game. UNC Duke and Ohio state are inconsistent. At times. Its not like it was in the past.

  • big tom

    Are you guys kidding me? smells like a few hurd fans I guess. We came back from a 28 pt deficit to I. St (who needed the win for ncaas) to just 4 before losing that game. absolutely no heart? little heart, yes. but this team does have it. And you must not follow basketball much if you think you get stuck in the bottom for long easily. This team is not only one good recruiting class away from being at 23 wins or more, its one good recruit from being there. Harris is right. We absolutely have all the pieces of the puzzle, just gotta lay them down correctly and we can beat anybody. Kansas only beat us by how much the first game?? but that's right..... it's always a guaranteed Blowout... Get out of here, naysayers

  • tw eagle

    well , we are nearing the END , of this abysmal season . . .of this higgins era we are still on the front end of a descending slope into ignominy. . .

    other than the 'free lunch' crowd (this includes the players) , i can't reason why any Mountaineer fan would bother with the travel to the land of toto. . . i bet the pep band would rather spend a few spring days in coopers rock than flail away for a team that has absolutely no HEART . . .

  • Big Larry

    WVU finds themselves matched up with "little sister of the poor" Texas Tech who they should easily beat. After that, they get blown out by Kansas...In the process, they pick up win number 14 ...WhooHoo!!

    The WVU basketball program has pretty much stayed in a holding pattern of "not being very good” the past 3 years. It is quickly becoming the Big 12 poster child for "The program that has no chance to succeed".

    Once you fall into the Abyss, it takes years to pull yourself back out.

    • Big Larry

      One more thing...No WVU fan from West Virginia in their right mind, is going to spend the money to travel to Kansas to watch this team get blown out by Kansas for the third straight time. Yes, there will be a few who attend, but it will be those who are not in their right mind.

      • Shawn

        If i had the time to take off work i would definitely go support my team in Kansas. If you choose not to support them then thats your decision and maybe since you dont support them you should stop commenting about them.

        • Big Larry

          You mean Wendy's won't let you off a couple days to go support the Mountaineers?