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Mountaineers may need more Harris magic as they visit Sooners

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a season of emergence for Eron Harris, no moment was grander, no game more uplifting, than the 28 points he delivered during West Virginia’s 91-86 overtime win against Oklahoma.

Four weeks later, West Virginia may need a repeat performance.

When the Mountaineers visit No. 23 Oklahoma on Wednesday night, they’ll likely be playing without Terry Henderson (who scored 17 points in 44 minutes in the first matchup) and without any wiggle room in regard to postseason hopes.

Harris, you’ll recall, was a first-half no show against the Sooners on Feb. 5. But he scored 20 points in the second half—highlighted by a clutch 3-pointer that forced overtime, where he tacked on six more points. The sophomore guard called it his biggest shot and biggest win ever.

And Sooners coach Lon Kruger called out the obvious: “We didn’t do a good job of slowing him down in the second half.”

Oklahoma (21-8, 10-6), currently in a three-way tie with Texas and Iowa State for second place in the Big 12, is gearing up for the rematch. This time the Sooners should be well rested, not having to endure the sleep-draining overnight travel woes of an Oklahoma City-to-Shreveport-to-Clarksburg-to-Newark itinerary that had them arriving in Morgantown only a few hours ahead of tipoff.

“West Virginia beat us at their place and we know how tough they are,” said Kruger, whose squad projects as a No. 4 seed in the NCAAs. “This game is huge to keep making the progress we’ve made in the last couple weeks.”

Likewise, West Virginia (16-13, 8-8) is aiming to reverse its recent regression of losing three out of four games. Upsetting Oklahoma and Kansas to close the season would resurrect slim NCAA hopes that otherwise depend solely upon WVU winning the Big 12 tournament. To that end, the Mountaineers also are aiming to maintain the league’s No. 6 seed—thereby earning a first-round by at the league tourney.

For the past three games, with Henderson sidelined the by illness, WVU has been playing with only eight scholarship bodies.

“I live with the guy and I have no idea when he’ll be back,” Harris said after Saturday’s win over TCU. “He hasn’t been able to practice or anything, so I don’t know.”

Word came late Tuesday that Henderson was at least flying with the team to Norman, though that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be cleared to play or have much stamina.

Tipoff: Wednesday, 9 p.m. in Norman, Okla. (ESPNU)
Records: The Sooners (21-8, 10-6) knocked Texas out of the AP top 25 by winning 77-65 in Norman on Saturday. But OU has lost three times inside Lloyd Noble this season, including setbacks to Louisiana Tech and Texas Tech.  … The Mountaineers (16-13, 8-8) are 3-5 on the road in Big 12 action.
RPIs: Oklahoma is No. 23 and WVU is No. 88.
Coach: Lon Kruger is 56-36 in his third season with the Sooners and stands as a prime contender for Big 12 coach of the year, along with Rick Barnes at Texas. In 28 seasons as a college head coach, Kruger (535-340) has steered five programs to 14 NCAA tournament berths (K-State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma).
Oklahoma’s top players: Sophomore guard Buddy Hield (16.6 points) and 6-7 swingman Cameron Clark (16.1 points) pace five Sooners who score in double figures. Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler (10.1 points, 9.5 rebounds) is a 6-foot-8 sophomore who has a knack for finding missed shots.  … Freshman Jordan Woodard (10.6 points) and sophomore Isaiah Cousins (10.8) are also factors for a team that in the Big 12 trails only Iowa State in 3-point tries. The Sooners have launched 627, which is 49 fewer than ISU and 19 more than West Virginia.
WVU roster notes: Big 12 player of the year candidate Juwan Staten recently became the first Mountaineer to produce 500 points, 150 assists and 150 rebounds in a season. “He’s had a phenomenal year,” said Huggins. “When you think about it, Jerry (West) didn’t do that or Hot Rod (Hundley) didn’t do that or Rod Thorn didn’t do that.” … Eron Harris (18.0 points) is third in Big 12 in 3-point accuracy (41.9 percent) and second in foul shooting (85.5 percent). … Power forward Devin Williams (8.1 points, 6.9 rebounds) produced his first double-double since Jan. 11 against outmanned TCU on Saturday. He’s still shooting only 39 percent for the season. … Remi Dibo (7.5 points) and Nate Adrian (5.7 points) must pick up the slack in Terry Henderson’s absence.
Line: Oklahoma favored by 6 1/2
Prediction: Oklahoma 80-71

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