Sports, Men's Basketball

The Numbers Behind Steffon Mitchell’s Career Performance at Virginia Tech

Boston College men’s basketball junior Steffon Mitchell entered Cassell Coliseum on Saturday afternoon having averaged just 4.3 points over the course of the Eagles’ previous four games. While subpar, the scoring drought was far from an anomaly for the stat-sheet stuffing forward, who ranks fourth in the ACC in rebounding and first in steals, and often does everything on the court but score.

Prior to this past weekend, Mitchell had reached double figures just 18 times in 83 career games. Despite having scored 10 or more points in six of BC’s first 22 games of the season, he also had 11 games where he didn’t top the six-point mark, including four where he recorded fewer than three points.

On Saturday at Virginia Tech, though, the Shakopee, Minn. native—who put up 500 shots a day this summer—finally looked like a scorer more than a glue guy.

Right from the tip, Mitchell came out aggressive, taking the Eagles’ first shot of the day. It was off the mark, but soon enough the 6-foot-8 forward got a rhythm going. Mitchell knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, hit 9-of-11 free throws, and bullied VT’s Landers Nolley II in the post for the game-winning layup in overtime to seal BC’s nail-biting 77-73 victory.

When all was said and done, the forward left Blacksburg with 21 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two blocks, and a steal. Only five other players in all of college basketball have posted that kind of stat line since the start of the 2010-11 season. The last to do it during an ACC game? Former NBA superstar Tim Duncan, who racked up 21 points, 23 rebounds, six assists, three blocks, and a steal in a conference matchup during February of the 1996-97 season.

Though Mitchell didn’t score for the first eight and a half minutes of regulation, he did notch two assists and a rebound in that span. The junior’s first basket was a 3-pointer, just his ninth of the season. Before Saturday, he was just 8-of-35, or 22.9 percent, from downtown this year. A minute later, he received a pass on the baseline, drove inside, and finished an acrobatic layup.

Although 10 of Mitchell’s 15 boards came in the second half and overtime, he tallied three of his six assists and one of his two blocks in the opening frame. With a shade over four minutes remaining in the first period, Mitchell swallowed up a John Ojiako layup attempt. Although the Hokies rounded out the day with 34 points in the paint, Mitchell did his fair share of defensive work down to limit Virginia Tech’s interior presence, as he did earlier in the week against Duke.

Mitchell’s second-half/overtime stat line alone would have turned aheads: 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal. Like the beginning of the game, he was relatively quiet to start the second half, but he began to heat up near the midway point of the period.

Mitchell assisted on a pair of dunks, the first of which was made possible by his lone steal of the game. Perhaps the most surprising moment of the afternoon was when Mitchell knocked down a 3-pointer while being fouled Tyrece Radford. With 4:03 left in regulation, he proceeded to sink the ensuing free throw to complete the rare four-point play.

Not only is Mitchell a career 24.1 percent 3-point shooter, but he’s also made a mere 54.8 percent of his free throw attempts during his three years at BC. Yet in overtime, the gritty forward was nearly perfect from the line.

He converted five of his six shots from the charity stripe, tying the game twice and ultimately icing the win with two seconds left on the clock. The success from the line was a big breakthrough for Mitchell and an Eagles team that ranks third-to-last in the ACC in free throw percentage (65.8 percent) and shot 11-of-27 from the foul line in its Jan. 25 meeting with the Hokies.

Mitchell’s final two free throws followed his game-winning basket. The forward backed into the chest of Nolley II—who totaled a game-high 29 points—spun, and went up for the layup with two hands. The ball bounced off the backboard and into the net, setting the stage for the Eagles’ second win over Virginia Tech this season.

Mitchell’s stat line attracted a great deal of attention over the weekend, particularly because it involved him eclipsing the 20-point mark for the first time since Nov. 12, 2017—his second career Eagles game, which was 819 days ago. 

That said, it also served as a reminder that, with a higher clip and a bit of offensive consistency, the forward can be one of the ACC’s most dynamic players.

Featured Image by Matt Gentry / The Roanoke Times via AP Photo

February 12, 2020