MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–In West Virginia’s 91-62 win over Long Beach State on Monday night, the Mountaineers had an unusual cast carry them to victory.
Lamont West scored 22 points. Sagaba Konate contributed a career-high 20 points and Chase Harler added a career-high 14.
It was Harler that was a pleasant surprise on the stats sheet.
Coming out of high school, the Moundsville, W.Va. native was a one of the state’s top basketball players. As a senior, he averaged 24.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.4 blocks per game.
Harler was a three-time West Virginia First Team All-State selection, a three-time selection to the All-OVAC First Team, a two-time West Virginia Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year and USA Today American Family Insurance All-USA West Virginia Player of the Year.
During his junior season, the Wheeling Central alum set a record for career points.
However, that never really transitioned over when Harler came to Morgantown. In fact, he averaged just 1.4 points and 5.9 minutes per contest as a freshman.
“I said in the pregame show with Tony (Caridi) that if Chase starts making shots, he’s going to get a whole lot of time and be really, really good for us,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “He plays so hard. He plays so hard and knows what he is doing. He doesn’t make glaring mistakes.”
In fact, Harler hustles on the court and has made tremendous improvements defensively. But WVU’s fast-paced defense often causes the sophomore to rush himself offensively.
“When you play the way we play, it takes a while to get used to playing so hard on defense to at times playing reckless on defense to coming down and slowing down, which is why, particularly early in the season, you see us turn it over,” Huggins said. “Like I told them, we were just going too fast.”
Therefore, Harler slowed down on offense and after talking with Huggins made some mechanical adjustments to his shot.
“We had a talk about it yesterday so I give him some credit for the shots tonight,” Harler said. “I get my thumb on the side and it rotates better and it feels a lot better. And they go in.”
On Monday the shots fell. The unexpected offensive contribution from the 6-foot-3, 210-pound guard helped the Mountaineers.
“It opens up a lot for everybody on the floor,” Harler said. “I can spread it. They can’t help as much so the people that are going to drive the lanes have more of it open.”
The big game for Harler was a morale booster for him.
“I needed a good game to get my confidence up,” he said.