Freshman Has Breakout Performance In New Role

Dwayne Mitchell discusses the factors that led to his best basketball performance as a collegian, including his game-day strategy for success.

Auburn, Ala.--For perhaps the first time all season, Dwayne Mitchell performed up to his advance billing as one of the top prospects in the country.

Offensively, he hit a clutch three-point field goal with 45 seconds left that helped Auburn stun the Ole Miss Rebels 65-62 on Wednesday night at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Defensively, the 6-4 guard spent much of his 24 minutes of playing time contending with 6-8, 230-pound Rebel star forward Justin Reed. Coach Cliff Ellis said his freshman from New Orleans played "like a warrior" by battling the Rebel power forward.

Dwayne Mitchell makes an aggressive move to the basket vs. the Rebels.

Mitchell finished the evening with a collegiate career best total of 12 points, but numbers alone don't tell how large a role he played in the victory over the Rebels. His energy, on both ends of the floor, helped awaken the slumbering Tigers, who found themselves down by a 23-7 margin with less than seven minutes to play before halftime.

With 22 college games under his belt, Mitchell has some seasoning and that helps explain the improved performance. So does his new regimen of shooting 500 jump shots a day in addition to team practices.

Dwayne Mitchell looks to the bench for instructions while Ole Miss munchkin-sized point guard Jason Harrison waits for the action to resume.

Mitchell says returning to his natural position as a two-guard, who can swing to the small forward spot, has also taken away pressure he was feeling. As much as he tried to make the conversion to point guard, he never was comfortable at the position.

Last, but maybe not least on Wednesday, the freshman added a little something extra to his pregame preparation. "I watched my high school highlight tape today before the game," Mitchell says. "I was really focusing on it. When I went in early this morning, I did some extra shooting. Then I watched my highlight tape and said to myself, ‘I can do the same thing out here if I put my mind to it.'

"Early in the season, I was trying to be more of a passer and get everybody into the game because that was my role as a point guard," Mitchell adds. "That didn't work out too well."

The struggles at the point, with junior Marquis Daniels and Mitchell trying to play the position, are a major reason for the substandard season. The decision of Coach Cliff Ellis to pull the redshirt off of freshman Lewis Monroe has helped spark the Tigers to three straight solid performances–two victories at home after a last-second road loss at Arkansas.

In the victory over Ole Miss on Wednesday night, Mitchell took six shots from the field and made four. He was 2-3 on three-pointers and 2-4 at the free throw line. He scored 12 points and played with intensity in 24 minutes of action. "It was a game where he played on both ends like a warrior," Ellis says.

In a game in which the Tigers had lengthy cold streaks in both halves, Ellis says that Mitchell and junior guard Derrick Bird were the sparks that fired up their teammates for both comebacks. "I thought our movement on offense off the ball was not in sync," Ellis says.

"Defensively, the same thing," the coach adds. "We weren't taking some charges and getting to the basket to box out the way we needed to. We just needed to move our feet. Active energy. And I thought the guys who gave us the impetus to do that were Dwayne Mitchell and Derrick Bird. Their feet were moving the entire night. I thought they gave us some energy...and then in the second half we all grabbed that energy."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Mitchell said he was exhausted after the game after spending a good bit of his time defending 6-8, 230-pound Justin Reed...Auburn made 5-11 free throws in the first half and was outscored 31-26. Auburn made 7-7 free throws in the second half and outscored the Rebels 39-31 after intermission...The Tigers started four freshmen again for a second straight time. Freshman power forward Marco Killingsworth said the game was physical around the basket. He noted that the Tigers did not panic after a horrendous start on offense, falling behind 23-7. "We got off to a rough start, but I am just proud of everybody on the team," he says. "We just stuck together and played hard. We fought through the rough offense we had at the beginning."...Sophomore center Kyle Davis served his one game suspension for "fighting" in the Georgia game by cheering on the Tigers from the Cliff Dwellers section.

Kyle Davis (the tall guy in the black shirt) is shown during halftime in the Cliff Dwellers section at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Basketball Recruiting News

Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories