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Boynton’s Coaching, Solomon’s Play Yielding Early Returns for OSU

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Mitchell Solomon has followed an interesting path during his collegiate career. Bixby’s own has gone from the top recruit in the state of Oklahoma, to a promising freshman, to someone who got lost in the shuffle, both because of himself and the talent around him. But now, in his senior season, Solomon is a veteran leader and maybe the most important player on Oklahoma State’s roster.

That might not seem an apt appellation for a player who ranks seventh on the team in scoring. He also doesn’t lead his team in rebounds or blocks, or minutes played.

But, for the first time in his career, getting Solomon shots has become a focal point of Oklahoma State’s offense, especially in the post and especially early in games. And it’s paying off.

“We got to establish an interior presence, “said head coach Mike Boynton. “We got really good shooters and the more we establish that it’ll make it easier for those perimeter guys. Did a good job starting the game.

“Mitchell was really good at being ready. I think he’s 9 for 9 in the last two games, so I’ll take that every day.”

That recent hot streak includes the senior making all five of his shots in the first half on Sunday during the Cowboys’ 83-62 win over Mississippi Valley State. He didn’t attempt a shot in the second half, but he didn’t have to.

And to Boynton’s point, the numbers show that the increase in paint scoring has led to better looks and, in turn, a better percentage from beyond the arc. Their four best 3-point shooting games have also been their four highest-scoring game when it comes to points in the paint.

Opponent Pts in Paint % of Scoring 3-Pt Shooting 3-Pt %
MVSU 34 41% 11/29 37.9%
Austin Peay 30 38% 11/27 40.7%
HBU 32 32% 10/22 45.5%
Pittsburgh 22 30% 7/28 25.0%
Texas A&M 22 44% 3/24 12.5%
ORU 32 35% 13/33 39.4%
Charlotte 26 31% 9/24 37.5%
Pepperdine 22 28% 10/29 34.5%

Solomon is still the effective rebounder, and one of the Cowboys’ best defenders. He’s forever the glue guy, the effort guy with skinned knees and elbows.

But now he’s become a focal point of the Cowboys’ offense, resulting in career highs in points (7.1 per game) and field goal shooting (61 percent).

“I’m feeling good,” said Solomon who is shooting 80 percent on 2-point attempts. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in me and so do my coaches.

“I’m just trying to go out there and get some points and take some pressure off our wings and help our team in an area where I haven’t helped our team in the past.”

Is a gameplan that works against Mississippi Valley State and Austin Peay going to be as effective against Wichita State or West Virginia? Maybe not. Does this team face an uphill battle starting with this weekend’s visit from No. 8 Wichita State and extending throughout conference play? Absolutely.

But the early returns have been good from Mike Boynton and his team. We’re seeing change. We’re seeing some adjustments and scheming from Oklahoma State’s rookie head coach, and they’re working.