MORGANTOWN - When last West Virginia and Texas played, Eron Harris was more of a curiosity than anything else.
Yes, he'd played some minutes for the Mountaineers. In fact, in some of those earlier games he'd played a lot. He was on the floor for 28 minutes against Oakland. He made key shots when it mattered against then-unbeaten Virginia Tech and soon-to-be-No. 1 Michigan.
But there were also times when Bob Huggins would simply ignore the freshman guard. He played three minutes against Oklahoma in Orlando and two against Marshall. In six of the games to that point, he'd failed to exceed 10 minutes of court time. Heading into the Texas game on Jan. 9 in Austin, Harris had averaged 12.6 minutes per game, but that number was actually dropping.
And then he made a shot that could have been his signature one for the season and it changed everything. Now, nearly four weeks later, he looks back on it and is asked if that was really the start of his college career.
"Yeah,'' Harris said. "It really was.''
As West Virginia (10-11, 3-5 Big 12) prepares to host Texas (10-11, 2-6) again tonight in WVU's second straight Big Monday game (9 p.m. tip on ESPN), Harris' emergence has made a rather significant difference for the Mountaineers.
Up to and including that game, West Virginia was shooting 27.6 percent from 3-point range. It was one of the worst percentages in the country. Over the full season, WVU is still shooting just 30.4 percent, a figure that has mercifully just allowed the team to climb into the Top 300 (No. 292) in 3-point accuracy.
But in the seven games since that first meeting with Texas, consider that the Mountaineers are actually averaging one fewer 3-point attempt per game (16.4 down from 17.4 over the first 14 games), but are making more (6.0 as opposed to 4.8). The 3-point shooting percentage over those last seven games is 36.5 percent. Over a full season that would be good enough to rank close to the Top 50.
And much of that is thanks to Harris. He joined fellow freshman Terry Henderson and occasionally a few others - Jabarie Hinds, Matt Humphrey, Gary Browne - in giving the team enough of an outside shooting threat that the 3-pointer could become a legitimate weapon, rather than an after-all-else-fails fallback. And he pretty much did it with one shot, his late-game 3 that gave the Mountaineers a late-game lead over Texas in a game they trailed by 10 just minutes before.
Texas would counter what could have been the game-winner by Harris that night, but WVU still won the game in overtime. And since the night that Harris showed how clutch he can be, he has been a regular part of the rotation. Two games later, he was in the starting lineup for the first time and hasn't left.
In fact, he's the only player who has started each of West Virginia's last six games and is far and away the team's leading scorer over that span, averaging nearly 14 points. He also has 14 3-pointers in that stretch after making only 12 in more than twice as many games prior to that. Harris has had games with five and four 3s, and in a 77-61 win at Texas Tech Saturday he had three more.
Harris admits that perhaps that one shot at Texas was the difference for him.