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Troy Baxter propels Morgan State men’s basketball to 77-63 win over South Carolina State, 2-0 start in MEAC

After enduring a scoreless first half for the Morgan State men’s basketball team, Troy Baxter was frustrated with himself during halftime of Monday night’s game against visiting South Carolina State.

“I was definitely in my head a little bit,” he said. “So I just decided to calm down, take good shots, be more aggressive, and just do the little things.”

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The 6-foot-9 forward certainly made up for that outing, scoring a team-high 16 points in the second half to power the Bears to a 77-63 victory over the Bulldogs before an announced 872 at Hill Field House.

Morgan State improved to 8-9 overall and 2-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, opening the league portion of its schedule with back-to-back victories for the third time in four seasons, but first time under rookie coach Kevin Broadus.

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Baxter’s zero-point showing in the first half was his second of the season and first since a 90-57 loss at No. 11 Ohio State on Nov. 29. On Monday, he got an earful from Broadus.

“I can’t say that on record,” Broadus said with a smile. “I told him, ‘You’re better than what you’re doing.’”

Baxter also declined to reveal the specifics of his conversation with Broadus during halftime, but said it provided the motivation he needed.

“He definitely didn’t say it calm,” Baxter said with a laugh. “He gave it to me straight-up. So I just took it. I didn’t get upset. It made me play a lot better.”

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Baxter was especially critical during a 3-minute, 58-second stretch in which he scored 14 consecutive points and helped the Bears extend a 46-38 lead to a 60-47 advantage with 5:49 left in the second half.

Baxter, a junior who transferred from Florida Gulf Coast, began his personal run with a steal, a three-pointer and an ensuing free throw after being fouled on the shot at the 9:47 mark.

He then added a layup and free throw to complete a three-point play with 8:14 remaining, a dunk 29 seconds later, and a 3-pointer 49 seconds after that. Baxter capped his spurt with a foul while attempting a three-point shot, but could only convert the first two before missing the third at the 5:49 mark.

“I really feel like when I’m like that, I really give my team energy,” he said. “They feed off of me. So every game, I just have to bring it. And even if I don’t, they’re always behind me, and they’re always pushing me.”

Baxter was one of four players to reach double digits in points. Sophomore guard Malik Miller came off the bench to add 15 points and four rebounds, senior shooting guard Stanley Davis Jr. contributed 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, and sophomore guard Sherwyn Devonish-Prince chipped in 11 points and six assists.

The Bears thrived in the paint, outscoring South Carolina State 38-18 and getting 16 points off the break compared to the Bulldogs’ seven. That helped Morgan State overcome a disadvantage at the free-throw line where South Carolina State went to the charity stripe seven more times and converted five more free throws.

“I would have never guessed that,” Broadus said of the Bears’ efficiency in the paint against the Bulldogs’ starting trio of 6-8 forwards. “I thought we were outscoring them with our speed because they’re big, they’re physical, and they’re good. We just kept moving the ball, and our things was, don’t get stagnant just because they’re playing zone, and we attacked. The thing I’m proud of our guys about today is, we had 20 assists. They shared the game. Sherwyn and Stanley really shared the game with five and six assists. So I’m happy about that.”

Senior forward Damani Applewhite paced the Bulldogs (6-8, 1-1) with a game-high 17 points and seven rebounds. Graduate student forward Tashombe Riley had 12 points and six rebounds, while senior forward Ian Kinard finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

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