UND MEN'S BASKETBALL: Mitchell, Sioux ready for Drake in CIT
DES MOINES, Iowa -- After winning the Great West Conference tournament last Saturday in Chicago, the UND men's basketball team didn't fly home as expected. Instead, the Sioux bused here to play Drake in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com t...
DES MOINES, Iowa -- After winning the Great West Conference tournament last Saturday in Chicago, the UND men's basketball team didn't fly home as expected. Instead, the Sioux bused here to play Drake in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
For one Sioux player, though, the bus trip was a return home.
UND senior forward Pat Mitchell prepped at Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines and grew up attending games at Drake.
"I remember going to quite a few Drake games when I was younger," said Mitchell, whose team will face Drake at 7 tonight at the Knapp Center. "I've got a couple of buddies who say Drake is their favorite team, so we've got a little rivalry going."
Mitchell averaged 15.5 points and 7.5 rebounds as a senior at Dowling and was named to the Des Moines Register All-Iowa first team.
The 6-foot-8 versatile Mitchell said he was recruited by Drake, but the Missouri Valley school backed off when Mitchell spurned their camp for an AAU road trip.
"I'm happy where I ended up," Mitchell said.
UND coach Brian Jones is happy, too.
"When he's not on the floor for us, you really know," Jones said. "He erases mistakes because of his help-side defense. He's also a great rebounder and shot blocker. A lot of people understand what he does for us offensively, but we as coaches really know how much impact he has for us defensively."
Because of Mitchell's penchant to bail out teammates defensively, he's prone to foul trouble. That was the case last weekend at the Great West tournament in which his minutes and ability to play physically were limited.
Starting the second half of the championship game against New Jersey Tech, Mitchell sparked UND's dominant second half run. He hit two 3-pointers to open the half as the Sioux outscored the Highlanders 48-31 after intermission.
With three 3-pointers against NJIT, Mitchell became just the third Sioux player in history to eclipse 200 career treys. This season, Mitchell also joined Chris Gardner as the only Sioux players to ever have 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 150 blocks in a career.
Entering halftime of the Great West title game, Mitchell was scoreless. But the all-Great West second team selection scored 12 points in the second half.
"At halftime, I told Patrick he would have the best 20 minutes of his career," Jones said. "You could see he was pressing. I wanted him to just relax and have fun.
"We tried to go to him early in the second half to get him going. He hit two big threes. That picked up our team confidence. Then we really started guarding. That really sparked our energy."
Thanks in part to Mitchell's big second half, the Sioux will be playing in their second straight CIT. UND lost to Air Force in the first round a year ago.
Jones said he has a different feel this go-around.
"I think it's a different mindset," Jones said. "Last year -- and rightfully so -- the guys were happy to be there. You could see it in the locker room. They really looked drained emotionally and physically. We need to take that next step and try to get a win."
It won't be Mitchell's first game against his hometown Bulldogs. The Sioux played Drake when Mitchell was a sophomore, and he registered his first career double double in a UND loss.
Mitchell said he never expected another chance against the familiar school.
"I'm excited to play in front of family and friends that I haven't seen in a long time," Mitchell said. "It feels good to be back here. This was a great surprise."
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