MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Eron Harris couldn’t find the basket when West Virginia needed him the most.
West Virginia’s leading scorer was limited to five of his 23 points in the second half and the Mountaineers couldn’t hold on to a 10-point lead, falling to No. 20 Gonzaga 80-76 on Tuesday night.
“They did a great job of knowing where he was,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said, referring to Harris. “What they basically said is ‘We’re not going to let him beat us.'”
West Virginia failed to seize on an opportunity to pad its resume and get its first win over a marquee opponent. West Virginia lost in the past two weeks to No. 4 Wisconsin and Missouri.
Harris’ final points were a 3-pointer with 1:28 left to pull West Virginia within 76-72. But he missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 1:15 left and shot an airball from 3-point range with 24 seconds left.
“We got it to four and Eron goes to the foul line for a 1-and-1. If he makes those, we’re down two and in a position to tie the game,” Huggins said. “We had opportunities, we just didn’t complete the task.”
Harris attempted only five field goals in the second half after going 6 of 10 from the field before halftime.
“We did a much better job on Harris in the second half,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “He was lighting us up in the first half.”
Sophomore Przemek Karnowski scored a season-high 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Kevin Pangos added 18 points. Gary Bell Jr. scored 15 points and Sam Dower had 11.
Juwan Staten added 17 points and Terry Henderson had 15 for West Virginia.
A 7-foot-1 native of Poland, Karnowski had his way against West Virginia’s undersized front court, which doesn’t have a player over 6-10. Karnowski made 6 of 11 field goals in the second double-double of his career.
“The guys were finding me,” Karnowski said. “I had great passes, I just had to finish them.”
A 48 percent free-throw shooter, Karnowski went 7 of 8 from the line. And he had just one foul called on him after spending half of his games in foul trouble, including fouling out twice.
“We knew coming in that we had a size advantage,” Few said. “Pzem did a good job in traffic and finished some plays.”
Gonzaga (9-1) held a 43-36 rebound advantage.
The Bulldogs entered the game with the nation’s best field goal percentage at 54.9 but were held to 44.3 percent (27 of 61) in their first game on an opponent’s court this season. Their previous worst was 48.1 percent in a Nov. 25 loss to Dayton in the Maui Invitational.
Gonzaga has won five straight games since.
As tough as Karnowski was to stop, so too was Pangos down the stretch.
After going 3 of 10 from the field in the first half, the junior went 4 of 7 after halftime. Pangos had 11 points in the final 6 minutes as Gonzaga rallied from down 53-43, its only double-digit deficit this season.
“Kevin kept at it,” Dower said. “He didn’t give up. He was persistent. He hit some really big 3s and that’s what he does. We knew it was coming sooner or later. That lifted up the team’s morale as well, and got everybody going.”
The Mountaineers were held to one field goal over a 7-minute stretch late in the game.
“I think the whole thing started when we didn’t get back on defense,” Huggins said. “We are so close to being pretty good, but at the same time, we are so far away.”
West Virginia had just five turnovers but was held to its second-worst shooting performance of the season at 37.3 percent (25 of 67). The Mountaineers have lost 13 straight times to ranked opponents.
Pangos hit a 3-pointer with 4:09 left to give Gonzaga the lead for good, 68-66. It was the Bulldogs’ first lead of the second half.
Pangos made two more wide-open 3-pointers over the next 2 minutes and Bell made two free throws with 1:52 left to give Gonzaga its largest lead, 76-68.
After Pangos was called for a charge into Harris, Staten hit a basket with 51 seconds left to pull West Virginia within 76-74. But the Mountaineers didn’t score another field goal the rest of the game.
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