When Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku had an off-night against Connecticut a month ago and the Orange lost an important home game by a mere basket to one of their fiercest rivals, teammate Paul Harris wasn’t shy about vocalizing his displeasure.

“If you don’t score, just get rebounds, do something, man. Make some game-changing plays,” Harris, who had 24 points and 11 rebounds against the Huskies, said afterward in the somber locker room. “You’ve got to keep your head up and just keep playing.”

Harris spoke from experience. He had done the same thing five games earlier, scoring just six points (he’s only failed to reach double figures in scoring four times in 29 games) in a 10-point home loss to Villanova. Harris apologized afterward, personally taking the blame for the loss.

On Saturday, he had to apologize again after allowing Pitt to steal the ball from him under his own basket and score the go-ahead layup with 8 seconds left in what became the Orange’s 12th — and by far their most devastating — loss of the season.

“It was one particular play that lost the game, and it was my play,” said a dejected Harris, who had 18 points, six steals, six turnovers, and only two rebounds. “I put all of it on me. I should have been stronger with the ball. I didn’t, but you can’t take it back.”

There are myriad things, it seems, that Harris would like to take back as his up-and-down sophomore season draws to a close.

Big things were expected of the muscular, 6-foot-3 former Niagara Falls High School star, and since that Villanova loss he has delivered some impressive performances.

Harris, who leads Syracuse in rebounding (8.4) and is fourth in scoring (14.6), has been a different player since coach Jim Boeheim inserted Kristof Ongenaet in place of Harris at small forward and began starting Harris alongside high school teammate Jonny Flynn in the backcourt. Harris had a career-high 28 points in a resounding road victory over Villanova, seven points and 10 rebounds in an overtime loss at Georgetown, and 22 points and eight rebounds in an important home win over Georgetown.

“He’s playing some of the best basketball he’s ever played,” Flynn said. “He’s definitely helping me out. A lot of games where I’m not shooting well, Paul is out there scoring and just playing out of control.”

Harris, who has worked hard on improving his foul shooting and midrange jumper, posted his 16th-career double-double with a team-high 22 points and 12 rebounds in Syracuse’s 94-87 loss at Notre Dame. He’s 139-for-189 (73.5 percent) from the free-throw line, a testament to his aggressive play, but he also leads the team in turnovers with 96.

“To go to the guard spot has helped him,” assistant coach Mike Hopkins said. “But we forget that Paul is in his sophomore season. He’s learning just like everybody is. Sometimes you evaluate your kids thinking like they’re seniors.”

Harris almost always punctuates his stellar play with confounding lapses that have led to tirade after tirade on the bench from his Hall of Fame coach.

In the important 77-70 victory last month over the Hoyas, who were ranked No. 8 at the time, Syracuse (17-12, 7-9 Big East) had to hold on at the end after leading by as many as 17 midway through the second half. And despite a solid performance, Harris managed to help make it interesting as time was winding down.

A one-minute stretch provided a snapshot of his time wearing orange: a missed dunk with 27 seconds left on the shot clock; a 10-second violation in the backcourt; a foul on Jonathan Wallace shooting a 3 that allowed Georgetown to close within seven points with 1:24 remaining; then making 7-of-8 foul shots in the final 72 seconds.

Boeheim called the loss to Pittsburgh, which rallied from 11 points behind with under four minutes remaining, “the most disappointing game I’ve ever been involved with.” It certainly hurt the Orange’s chances of being selected to play in the NCAA tournament, but at least they still control their destiny with two regular-season games remaining before the Big East tournament.

Syracuse travels to Seton Hall (17-12, 7-9) on Wednesday night before the season finale at home Saturday afternoon against No. 21 Marquette (21-7).

“I can get over it,” Harris said. “It’s going to be hard, but we’ve still got games left and I’m going to focus on the next opponent. l’ll be ready for Seton Hall and go from there.”

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