By Chris McManes
Catholic University needed Howard's 28 points and Mitchell's 25 to outlast Arcadia, 85-77, in the first round of the CUA-Holiday Inn College Park Classic on Thursday.
The Cardinals (8-2) will play Stockton University for the tournament championship on Friday at 7 p.m. The Ospreys (6-4) advanced with an 82-79 victory over Dickinson (6-3).
Howard, a junior preseason All-American, was 8 of 14 from the field and 12 of 14 from the line. He and Louis Khouri corralled 10 rebounds apiece. Howard added six assists and often brought the ball up court late in the second half when the game was on the line.
"Sometimes you look at the stat sheet and you're just amazed at what he does consistently night in and night out. It's impressive," Howes said. "He was just a warrior tonight. [The Knights] were physical."
Mitchell is a sophomore combo guard who's being counted on to pick up some of the slack left by the departure of point guard Bryson Fonville. The two-time All-American is now playing for the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League.
Mitchell shot 9 of 21 Friday. He was 3 of 6 from long range and 4 of 4 from the charity stripe. He added four boards and three assists, and tied his personal best with four steals.
Howes said Mitchell took what the defense gave him on DuFour Center's Franny Murray Court.
Ryan Kelley scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the second half to keep Arcadia (5-5) within striking distance. Evan Slone produced 18 points and six rebounds. Brandon Thompson scored 13 points. Josh Scott had 10 points and five assists.
CUA didn't take its first lead until 6:44 remained in the first half. The Knights led 33-30 before the Cards reeled off nine straight points. CUA took a 39-36 lead into the break.
Mitchell and Howard combined to score nine of the Cardinals' first 10 points of the second half as CUA opened a 50-40 lead.
Kelley nailed three consecutive 3s and a runner to draw Arcadia to within 60-55 with 9:13 to go. Howard responded with a short driving layup, and Mitchell dropped in one from the top of the key to boost the lead back to 10.
The Cardinals were up by seven when, with the shot clock running down, Khouri grabbed a Mitchell miss and called timeout with 55.3 seconds to play. Mitchell sank four straight foul shots, and Howard closed the scoring with a pair of freebies.
Howes used the same word to describe Mitchell as he did Howard.
"Andre's a warrior, and you need a team full of warriors like that," he said. "He's definitely our heartbeat."
Howes was proud of his team's mental toughness. CUA was coming off an 11-day Christmas break.
"We came out a little tentative," Howes said. "Then we played hard, like we have all year. We beat a very good team."
NOTES – Khouri made all three of his 3-point shots for nine points. He fell one rebound short of his career high. The senior electrical engineering major collected 11 boards vs. Scranton last season. … Senior Jeff Holland tallied seven points in nine minutes of action. His driving layup with 2:31 to play put CUA on top, 75-67. … One of Riley Hayes' two steals came with the Cardinals clinging to a 65-59 lead. His theft led to a driving jumper in the lane by Mitchell. … Tom Catanoso led Stockton with 17 points. Marcus Harmon had 12 points and nine rebounds. Justus Melton paced Dickinson with 16 points and nine boards. Elijah Wright chipped in 14 points. … CUA will be in the championship game of the tournament for the 29th time in the event's 30-year history. It began as the Eastern Invitational Tournament in February of 1988. The event was the brainchild of former Cardinal Coach Jack Bruen. CUA has won the championship 18 times.