Since he formerly played in Europe, Elias Harris might not be as well known as other Division I freshmen, but he is making a name for himself already this season while proving to be a crucial part of Gonzaga's early success.
As they try to bounce back from a rare home loss, the 21st-ranked Bulldogs hope to have their starting forward for a full game Wednesday night against Division III Augustana.Born and raised in Germany, Harris had a modest showing in the European championships after averaging 20.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season for his school in Speyer.The 6-foot-8 forward has continued that success with an easy transition to the college game stateside. He leads the Bulldogs (6-2) with 7.5 rebounds per contest and is third with 12.8 points behind upperclassmen Matt Bouldin (18.4) and Steven Gray (13.8).That has helped a young Bulldogs squad ascend into the AP Top 25, and his value was highlighted even more in Saturday's 77-75 defeat to visiting Wake Forest.Gonzaga held a comfortable lead in the first half when Harris was surprisingly ejected for a flagrant foul on Chas McFarland."My feeling is I did nothing wrong," Harris said. "I put one hand on his chest and went for the rebound and he fell. I didn't know what happened."Without him, the Bulldogs fell behind by 14 in the second half and an ensuing rally fell short.It was just the fourth loss in 69 games at the McCarthy Athletic Center, also known as "The Kennel," since it opened in 2004. The Bulldogs have also won 11 of 12 there since a 77-70 defeat to Portland State on Dec. 23.With Harris back, the Bulldogs shouldn't have a problem bouncing back. However, they might not want to take Augustana too lightly.After reaching the Division III finals in 1980 and 1993, the Vikings have returned to becoming a perennial NCAA tournament team with three appearances in four years.At 5-0, the team from Rock Island, Ill., is also off to its best start since 2005-06.Senior guard Matt Pelton is Augustana's lone returning starter. He's averaging a team-best 14.8 points per game, but scored 20 in a 73-56 win at Knox College on Nov. 30.Junior Kyle Nelson is the only other player averaging in double figures -- 10.4 ppg on 58.8 percent shooting -- and the forward has grabbed a team-leading 7.0 rebounds per game.Augustana is holding opponents to 59.8 points per game while averaging 72.2 points.This game marks the first meeting between a ranked Division I team and a Division III school in the regular season since Nov. 14, 2008, when then-No. 20 Davidson defeated Guilford 107-83.It's also the first matchup between Gonzaga and Augustana.