Madison, Wis.—Kris Humphries sure can score. And can he ever dunk. But unfortunately for Minnesota, he can't clone himself. Genetics and ethics aside, the freshman forward was the team's saving grace in the 80-66 loss to No. 14 Wisconsin (15-3 overall, 6-1 Big Ten). He had 10 of the team's first 12 points and when he was in the game, he was a dominating force, collecting eight rebounds and 24 points throughout the night, two points above his average of 22.2 points per game. In the six minutes he was on the bench, the Gophers (8-12, 0-8) had only 12 points, including three free throws.
Wisconsin, though, held him to only 12 of 21 shooting and no free throws.
"He's a specimen," Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. "He's a
good player who's got a good feel for the game. … We just tried to make him take
some uncomfortable shots but if it wasn't for three or four lobs, I thought
percentage-wise, we had him right where we wanted him."
Yes, he was a dominating and daunting force but certainly a flawed one. He had his fair share of mistakes against Wisconsin, turning the ball over three times and racking up three personal fouls. His nonexistent trips to the charity stripe were unusual for a player who is 116 of 148 in his extremely short collegiate career.
"I thought Kris did a good job," Minnesota coach Don Monson said. "Obviously, it's tough because we're going to him so much and I just think he doesn't shoot a free throw. He's in the post there. It's hard to know what to do to help him."
Humphries is only a freshman with a lot to learn and he gave his audience a glimpse of his frustration with the Badgers and the referees when he picked up a technical foul after missing a layup late in the first half.
"I think he got frustrated," Monson said. "[Referee Rick] Hartzell said he stared at him, stared him down."
And then there was Harris. Thirty-eight points says a lot about the capability of a player. So does making five 3-pointers and 13 free throws. So does playing a career game after learning that one key player will take a medical redshirt and discovering just hours before a game that another teammate has been arrested. It says a lot about what a player, and a team, can handle on any given night.
Sophomore forward Alando Tucker decided early this week to sit out for the rest of the season as he recovers from two injuries to his right foot. Sophomore guard Boo Wade was arrested Wednesday afternoon, charged with substantial batter and is suspended indefinitely. Despite the roller coaster of a week, the Badgers came out and defeated Minnesota with Harris carrying the team. When Wisconsin looked down in the second half, Harris provided a crucial boost, just as Minnesota came from behind to catch up to the Badgers.
"I was just trying to get the team to get a little more anxious out there," Harris said. "We looked a little dead the first 10 minutes of the [second] half. It's something we've never seen before from our team, so I was trying to get the guys motivated a little bit and trying to get the team jump-started so that we could come out and make that run in the second half like we did."
His performance was impressive to begin with and loaded with highlight-reel shots, including a few dunks, some perfectly-executed free throws and a few three-pointers from several feet behind the arc. He also had no personal fouls and no turnovers. Ryan commented on Harris the same way a teacher praises an "A" student in front of a parent.
"Look at the way he handled the ball and not one turnover; he's listening, he's observing, he takes notes, he studies the game, he's attentive to everything we give him," Ryan said. "And that makes it a joy to be around people like that."
For the players, Harris is a blessing because he presents such a tremendous offensive threat to opposing teams.
"Teams are forced to focus on him, which allowed for everybody else to get open shots," junior forward Zach Morley said. "It's been amazing. Let him keep firing."
Harris too much for Gophers - game story