It looks like Virginia senior star guard Joe Harris was just waiting for ACC play to tip-off to heat up. Harris is coming off an excellent performance of 16 points and four assists in the Cavaliers’ crushing of North Carolina, 76-61, at home Monday. That game was Harris’ fifth straight double-digit performance since leaving early against Florida State Jan. 4.
Harris has been on fire since ACC play commenced. He is shooting 50 percent (23-of-46) from the field in conference play and has hit the three-pointer at nearly 52 percent during that time frame. This has led Virginia to a 5-1 ACC record and a 4-1 record in games Harris has played a significant amount of minutes. Virginia’s lone loss came in the heart-breaker against Duke where Harris scored 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Harris is not a player that needs to score 20-plus points for his team to be successful. He has the ability to do this, but because of coach Tony Bennett‘s system and because the players surrounding Harris offer reliable scoring, he is playing the perfect style to match his game.
Harris is an efficient player and has the kind of size at 6-foot-6 and 225-pounds that can bang inside if he needs to. Harris is also a fantastic three-point shooter and runs off screens extremely well. He got going against North Carolina because he made the defense chase him around until it got lazy and left him open. If teams decide to shift into a zone in hopes of stopping him, Harris will make the correct pass at the perfect time to the right player. Virginia does not have any one player who is a scoring-machine, but the Cavaliers do have six players in the eight-man rotation who average at least 6.7 points per game. This may not seem like a lot of scoring, but because UVA tends to slow the game down with its strong defense, it is enough.
Harris makes all of this work. He is a great leader who wants to be in that position. Virginia slipped up earlier this season but now looks like an NCAA tournament team that will likely have a mid-level seed. Harris is a senior who does not want to go down without making a lasting moment. When Virginia walks into the dance, expect Harris to be a force.
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