February is the month where you start to find out what college basketball teams are made of.
That’s not necessarily to say that the Virginia Cavaliers are a force to be reckoned with after notching an incredibly convincing win over No. 3 Duke Thursday night, defeating the Blue Devils 73-68. It is however, to say their star player is playing his best at a pivotal time of the season.
It was no surprise that junior guard Joe Harris could score the basketball, but when the 6-foot-6 Washington State native went for a career-high 36 points in Virginia’s upset win over Duke, you were left wondering just how good Harris actually is.
As Virginia battles for an NCAA Tournament bid, the Cavaliers have mustered up 10 wins in one of the toughest conference’s in the country, and a lot of it has been thanks to Harris’s scoring prowess. After going from December 1 to January 29 without reaching the 20-point plateau, Harris has gone for 20 or more in six of Virginia’s last nine games, averaging an impressive 22.6 points per game over that span.
To no one’s surprise, Virginia just so happens to be 6-3 over that nine game stretch.
As Virginia’s leaped up in the ACC standings, Harris has moved up the board of the conference’s leading scorer’s and now sits in fourth place at 16.6 points per game. (Stats were prior to Thursday’s game, but considering he trailed Duke’s Seth Curry, who was at 16.8 points per game and scored 28 points in the loss, the standings may not be effected).
Harris has had a number of games where he’s looked like Stephen Curry from deep, but the story of Thursday night was his ability to get to the free-throw line, where he made a career high 10-of-12 attempts. He displayed great poise in the upset, scoring in a variety of ways, but deeming himself unstoppable against a team that doesn’t tend to give up huge games to opposing guards.
On the season, Harris is shooting a pretty impressive – considering his strength is his perimeter shooting – 50-percent, going an incredibly efficient 46-percent from three.
As wrapped up as the conference seems to be for Miami, if Virginia can win maybe two of their final three regular season games (at Boston College, at Florida State, and Maryland – which are all winnable) Harris could wind up in a position where he’s considered for ACC Player of the Year.
He sure looked like it on Thursday night.
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