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Blow to the head by Eron Harris mars West Virginia’s rout of Iowa State

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

In addition to the 13 threes West Virginia sank in its demolition of No. 11 Iowa State on Monday night, the Mountaineers also connected on a shot of a different sort late in their 102-77 victory.

Referees ejected West Virginia guard Eron Harris after he clobbered Monte Morris with a volleyball spike to the face as the Iowa State guard went up for a shot near the rim with just over four minutes remaining.

It's debatable whether Harris was merely overzealous in his attempt to block Morris' shot or had malicious intentions, but the West Virginia guard certainly had reason to retaliate. Shortly before that, Iowa State's Dustin Hogue was not immediately called for a foul for a drop kick to West Virginia forward Kevin Noreen's stomach as Hogue came down after leaping to grab a rebound.

Whether Harris faces further punishment will be determined by Big 12 officials. Even a one-game suspension would be costly for West Virginia since Harris is the team's second-leading scorer and the Mountaineers visit second-place Texas on Saturday.

The chippy finish overshadowed what was otherwise a crucial victory for a West Virginia team trying to overcome a woeful non-league performance and make a surprising late push for an NCAA tournament bid.

Expected to endure another rebuilding season after losing three of their top six scorers from last season's dreadful 19-loss team, West Virginia looked the part of a Big 12 bottom feeder when it lost to every remotely competent team it faced in November and December. The Mountaineers have bounced back in a huge way since then, riding the play of a vastly improved backcourt to a 7-5 Big 12 record that includes impressive victories over Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma and now Iowa State.

Ten losses and a bloated RPI would probably keep West Virginia out of the field of 68 if Selection Sunday were this weekend, but the Mountaineers still have time to overtake the bubble teams in front of them. They certainly looked the part of an NCAA tournament team Monday night when they led by double figures after 10 minutes, by 19 at halftime and by as many as 32 in the second half.

On offense, West Virginia was blistering hot from behind the arc, sinking 13 of 22 threes and shooting 53.8 percent from the field. Four Mountaineers scored at least 16 points including forward Remi Dibo, whose six threes and 20 points were both season highs.

On defense, West Virginia shut down a potent Iowa State offense by playing a 3-2 matchup zone that limited the Cyclones' ability to find a mismatch and exploit it. Iowa State was also unable to shoot the Mountaineers out of that zone as the Cyclones uncharacteristically sank only 4 of 23 attempts from behind the arc.

Thus West Virginia picked up a big win that gets it closer to joining the bubble chatter. Now the Mountaineers just have to hope they don't lose Harris for a game as they continue to try to make their late push.

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