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Mitchell is three points shy of 1,000 for his career.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Deon Mitchell is three points away from joining Northern Iowa’s 1,000-point club.

He’ll be the 38th Panther to reach that status and one of six also ranking in the top 10 of UNI’s all-time assists leaders.

“I was aware of it at the beginning of the season, but I couldn’t tell you how many points I need or how close I am,” Mitchell said. “It’d be a nice accomplishment but not something I’m looking at every week.”

His coach is more aware of the impending milestone, however.

“It says a lot about his ability to come in as a freshman and play well, contribute early in his career,” coach Ben Jacobson said.

“The numbers are down this year, but he’s easily the best player he’s been in his career. For me, that’s the most important thing. I know boxscores are what people look at and how you judge players. But we wouldn’t have very many good players on our team right now based on boxscores.”

Mitchell is averaging 6.4 points per game, which is the lowest in his four years at UNI. It’s just over half of what he put up a year ago (12.1) as the team’s second-leading scorer. Assists? The 2.1 per game is also his lowest number since 2011-12. And before an 11-point outing in Tuesday’s 65-55 victory at Denver, Mitchell had averaged 3.2 points during the previous five games.

It’s no secret that UNI’s depth has played a role in decreased individual statistics across the board. Fewer minutes are up for grabs, especially considering how well fellow guard Wes Washpun has played to start the year.

But it also had an affect on a re-dedication, of sorts, for Mitchell. As he entered the Denver game shooting 21.3 percent from the field, extra workouts had filled the past two weeks to help him get back to form.

It paid off against Denver as Mitchell went 4-for-4 from the field with four rebounds and zero turnovers in 20 minutes — the most he’s played in five games.

“During the summer, I was feeling really good. Then at the beginning of the season my shots weren’t falling and things weren’t going as planned. Next thing you know, I decided to get in some extra work and back to the stuff I was doing this summer,” he said.

“It felt a lot better to come in and knock down my first few shots. I had been struggling throughout the beginning of the season. To come out and not miss a shot and beat a team on the road is another confidence boost.”

Mitchell through the years
Year Pts/Avg. Assists Steals
2011-12 238/7.0 57 20
2012-13 326/9.3 126 45
2013-14 375/12.1 104 29

Jacobson was happy to see things turn around for Mitchell Tuesday, and the statistics were bound to come.

“From my perspective, I think Deon has played good, even during the time he wasn’t playing as much the past three weeks. He was playing good, but not great,” Jacobson said. “He’s shown that he’s very capable of playing at a higher level than what he was.”

Now Mitchell hopes to revisit that high level, and Saturday’s game at VCU is an excellent opportunity. In two previous bouts with VCU, he’s averaging 14.5 points, six rebounds and 3.5 assists. He put up 18 points, five rebounds and six assists at the Siegel Center as a freshman in 2012.

He says the fast-paced style of play is what suits him best.

“It’s more of an up-and-down tempo. Made or missed, they don’t slow down and are always pushing in transition,” Mitchell said of the Rams. “That’s the style I like to play all the time. Being able to run up and down and push every chance we get is something I’m looking forward to.”

VCU (5-3) was ranked as high as No. 14 this year, but through a tough schedule, lost two of three games to ranked teams.