Michigan State Basketball: How Concerning Are Gary Harris' Shooting Struggles?

Brad AlmquistFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, left, talks to Gary Harris during the first half of a Coaches vs. Cancer NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Gary Harris' recent shooting struggles are just another part of Michigan State's recent team-wide frustrations.

He shot a dreadful 3-of-20 from the floor against Wisconsin on Sunday. The talented sophomore certainly wasn't shy about expressing his feelings regarding his recent slump.

Harris recorded the worst shooting game of his impressive two-year career. That contest only compounded his ongoing issues in the wake of Keith Appling's injury, as Harris is shooting just 23.1 percent through those two games.

But actually, he's been up-and-down all year.

Harris' overall numbers are gaudy, but he's had an inconsistent shooting season, which explains his relatively low shooting percentages. The Indiana native leads the Big Ten with 17.6 points per game, but he is doing so on only 41 percent shooting (32.7 percent from three-point range.)

Those outputs are lower than his freshman year's. However, after being named Preseason Big Ten Player of the Year, being handed an enhanced role and having to compensate for key players' absences from the lineup, Harris' inevitable shooting struggles come as no surprise.

Before his recent two-game hiccup, Harris was dominating.

In the prior five games, he shot nearly 54 percent from the floor and was averaging 20.6 points per game. He recorded 20-plus points in four of those contests, including a 27-point eruption against a sound Michigan defense.

Clearly, Harris is capable of lighting it up on any given night. He can dissect a defense in a variety of ways. Harris has also displayed a willingness and competency at shouldering the offensive load with limited help.

But recently, he has found it much more difficult to generate easy scoring opportunities.

Per Gillian Van Stratt of mlive.com, Harris attributed his lack of production against Wisconsin to starting the game with poor shot selections. Harris noted that he needs to find some easy looks to get himself in a rhythm.

And he was right. The sophomore shooting guard consistently attempted difficult, guarded perimeter shots and was never able to find a groove.

In that contest, Harris missed all seven of his three-point attempts. More alarmingly, he didn't shoot a free throw, which evidences his recent reliance on his jumper.

However, it seems that Harris has identified that issue. Although he's a young player, there is a unique maturity to his temperament, and his ability to honestly reflect on his woes goes far beyond his years.

We see it on the court. We see it in the press conferences.

As he's done so frequently this season, Harris will respond. For every series of games that he has struggled in, the sophomore has rebounded with an impressive string of subsequent performances. He has not recorded two straight games of single-digit point totals.

For Michigan State, there's no reason to worry.

Harris is too resilient, mature and downright talented for his shooting skid to last. Additionally, Michigan State will face three consecutive opponents that are below .500 in the Big Ten.

That will equate to big scoring games for Harris. While he will continue to attract constant attention from opposing defenses as Appling and Branden Dawson continue to sit, Harris will improve on his recent shortcomings.

He's targeted the reasons for his struggles. Now it's just time for Harris to apply them.