College Basketball: Mitchell making things happen for Wright State

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Nagy said WSU has been good, needs to be great

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

When Wright State coach Scott Nagy scoured the boxscore after his team rallied from 11 points down to beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee 70-67 Saturday, there were a couple of numbers that caught him by surprise.

Not only did junior guard Justin Mitchell have a double-double, and not only were his 21 points and 12 rebounds game highs, they were career highs.

“I was a little shocked by both,” Nagy said. “The rebounding part, though, I shouldn’t be surprised. He’s almost our leading rebounder every game.”

It’s just that Mitchell has this smoothness to his game that allows him to go from a supporting role to a dominating one without drawing much attention. The Raiders are hoping to see more of that Friday night against Detroit at the Nutter Center.

The Raiders (12-7 overall, 3-3 Horizon League) beat the Titans (4-14, 2-4) 85-72 in Detroit on New Year’s Eve, when Mitchell had another one of his quietly effective outings with nine points, six rebounds and a game-high seven assists.

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WSU’s Justin Mitchell (top) goes for a loose ball against Detroit. Wright State defeated host Detroit 85-72 on Dec. 31, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

WSU’s Justin Mitchell (top) goes for a loose ball against Detroit. Wright State defeated host Detroit 85-72 on Dec. 31, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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WSU’s Justin Mitchell (top) goes for a loose ball against Detroit. Wright State defeated host Detroit 85-72 on Dec. 31, 2016. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The 6-foot-4 junior from Fort Wayne, Ind., had never had a double-double before recording 18 points and 10 rebounds in an 80-75 loss to Youngstown State on Jan. 7. Now he has two in his last three games following Saturday’s outing at Milwaukee, where the 21 points tied the career high he set earlier this year against Division II Urbana and the 12 rebounds topped his previous high of 11, which he set Dec. 3 at Penn State and tied two weeks later at Kent State.

“He’s got a good nose for the ball and he’s a good athlete,” Nagy said of the 6-foot-4 Mitchell, who leads the Raiders with 7.5 rebounds per game. “He’s a good offensive rebounder because he plays point, and point guards don’t block out generally. “

While Mitchell may play point guard, it’s only because the team, as Nagy often points out, doesn’t have a true No. 1 guard. It’s a deficiency the Raiders are often able to mask thanks to Mitchell’s solid play, but it can become an issue against a pressure defense like WSU saw at Wisconsin-Green Bay in a 78-61 loss.

And the Raiders could face a similar style Friday night against the Titans.

“They’re playing a little bit differently than when they played us before,” Nagy said. “They’re pressuring more. It’s very helter-skelter. And with our team, we don’t take care of the ball really well. We don’t have a bunch of primary ball handlers, so it certainly makes us nervous. They’re going to come after us. And we have to be able to take care of the basketball for us to win the game.”

Mitchell had just one turnover against Green Bay, which is one of the best in the league at forcing them with an average of 15 per game.

In addition to leading the team in rebounds, Mitchell also ranks first in steals (1.1) and is second in assists (3.1) and third in scoring (11.2). And among players averaging at least three shots per game, Mitchell’s field goal percentage of 51.6 is tops.

“He’s shooting a great percentage even though at this point everybody kind of knows he’s not a great jump shooter,” Nagy said. “But he’s smart about that. He doesn’t do what he’s not good at it and he does what he’s good at.

“That’s what makes a good player, guys that know our strengths,” Nagy continued. “And I think that he does.”


FRIDAY’S GAME

Detroit at Wright State, 7 p.m., 106.5

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