MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Sometimes magical games occur in half-full arenas, with the star of the night spending the first half in shiftless exile.
Such was the magic that found Eron Harris on Wednesday, or more accurately, the magic he generated, during a crazy and clutch second half that begat an equally clutch overtime.
He had two points at halftime. He had 28 at game’s end. He had the shot of his life in between.
That’s not hyperbole.
The 19-year-old professed he had never made a basket like the tying 3-pointer he willed through with 24 seconds left in regulation.
“That’s my first shot like that—ever,” Harris admitted after West Virginia outlasted No. 21 Oklahoma 91-86 in overtime.
It was a rescue job of the highest order, salvaging West Virginia from the squandered 14-point lead against travel-weary No. 21 Oklahoma. (Hard to scoff at a crowd of 7,538 when the visiting team nearly failed to show.)
The Sooners, in case you hadn’t heard, endured a two-day trek from Norman to Morgantown—making three failed passes at the snow-covered runway in Clarksburg on Tuesday before finally touching down in Newark, where more winter delays awaited. Lon Kruger’s squad missed its scheduled shoot-around Wednesday, yet shot its way back from a blowout with a brassy second half.
An 11-1 run put Team Travelocity up 81-78 inside the final minute with the ball. But when 23-point scorer Jordan Woodard missed from in close with 33 seconds left, West Virginia had its chance.
Harris had his chance.
Did you really think WVU was thinking quick-2 when Harris had spent the second half launching long-3s? He took the ball on a screen and found himself facing the 6-foot-9 Ryan Spangler on the switch.
Harris wasn’t clear—but feeling the responsibility of a 17-point half—let fly. Splash, and it became a 20-point half. And the exiting Coliseum crowd U-turned in eruption. (“Who was leaving? Why would they leave?” Harris said. “Maybe they were probably trying to get home because of the weather.”)
Bob Huggins admitted the play wasn’t as open as he’d hoped, yet it must have been open enough.
“We got Spangler on him, made him drop his hands and Eron made a hard shot,” the coach said. “Made a hard, hard shot.”
Oklahoma settled for its own hard shot after milking the final 22 seconds of regulation. Kruger ignored his three timeouts in hopes his in-the-flow offense could exploit WVU as it had done on recent possessions.
“But we didn’t get the shot we wanted,” Kruger said of Isaiah Cousins’ contested 23-footer. “If I had it to do over again, I would probably make a different decision.”
West Virginia’s first two baskets of OT were more of the same from Harris—faraway shots you might reserve for H-O-R-S-E but not necessarily a Big 12 game. After the second one sent WVU ahead for good at 87-84, Harris gave in to goofy hysteria, yanking up his shorts to his waist and showing off his tighty-whitey compression gear.
“I almost don’t know how to react to a lot of this stuff, because I didn’t think I was ever going to be in this situation,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be here. Everything that happens now is like a dream.”
Yet Harris’ big night, just like West Virginia’s fast-rising postseason hopes, are no hallucination.