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Baxter’s minutes are limited but performance is up for BYU

By Darnell Dickson - | Nov 24, 2021

BYU's Gavin Baxter dunks the basketball against Central Methodist in the Marriott Center on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

Slowly but surely, BYU’s Gavin Baxter is getting there.

The former Timpview star has missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries after flashing glimpses of his considerable athleticism early in his career. Last season, Baxter tore his ACL in the second game and missed the entire year.

He’s started the the first four games this season and his statistics are modest: seven points and 3.5 rebounds per game with six blocks and a field goal percentage of .684. Cougar coach Mark Pope has been extra cautious and has limited Baxter’s time on the court to just a couple of minutes at a time.

“I think he’s doing good, and we’re going to keep easing him into a little more minutes,” Pope said. “But he’s playing well, and he had a great showing tonight (vs. Central Methodist), and we put him in a couple different positions. He’s going to get more comfortable doing that, and we need him.”

The 6-foot-9 Baxter is filling a very important role as a post defender and rebounder since 6-11 senior Richard Harward has been sitting out due to a cardiovascular issue.

“Each game I get more and more comfortable being out there,” Baxter said. “Even though my minutes are still a bit condensed, I’ve just got to worry about two things every game and for me I’m trying to play defense and rebound. Physically, with my knee and the strength of my knee I’m between 90-100 percent. But It’s mostly about building my confidence in myself and knowing that I am capable, getting up and down the court, jumping, rebounding, just building confidence.”

Against Oregon, Baxter contributed seven points, five rebounds and two blocks in 15 minutes of play. On Saturday against Central Methodist, Baxter scored in double figures for the first time in over a year (13 points) and contributed five rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.

Good start

As of Monday, West Coast Conference teams have posted a 40-12 record in the preseason. Five teams are undefeated, led by San Francisco at 6-0, BYU at 4-0, top-ranked Gonzaga at 5-0, Santa Clara at 5-0 and Saint Mary’s at 5-0.

“The league is good,” Pope said. “San Francisco is 5-0 right now and they’re in the top 40. Saint Mary’s is undefeated and right at the top 40 in Kenpom, and Santa Clara has some really good wins.”

Scouting Report

BYU will roll out its brand-new No. 18 national ranking on Wednesday with a home game against 0-5 Texas Southern.

At first glance, the game appears as a colossal mismatch, but a closer look reveals the Tigers will be a tough out. As is their custom, the SWAC program is playing its first 13 games on the road against a brutal schedule. Texas Southern lost at Oregon by 17 points – the Cougars ripped the Ducks in Portland by 31 – but the Tigers have also threatened Saint Mary’s, Washington, Air Force and North Carolina before falling by single digits.

John Walker III, a 6-9 senior forward, leads Texas Southern with 12.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and 6-9 senior Joirdon Karl Nicholas (11.2 points, 5.8 rebounds per game) creates a matchup problem for opponents.

The Tigers are coming off a season where there earned an NCAA Tournament berth, beating Mount Saint Mary’s 60-52 in the First Four before losing to Michigan 82-66 in the first round.

BYU is hoping to ride the momentum of last week’s huge victory against then-No. 12 Oregon.

“It just shows how hard we’ve been working and as a team, how we’ve been playing together,” sophomore forward Caleb Lohner said. “It’s cool to see. We’ve done some really cool things that some teams haven’t done. To see that steady climb, I think is important to the guys. That reward of being 4-0 to start the season does do something to us. I think it’s just a kind of reminder like, hey, if we keep doing what we’re doing, we keep playing like a team, we keep doing the things that we’re supposed to do, we’re going to be a really good team.”

Men’s College Basketball

Texas Southern (0-5) at No. 18 BYU (4-0)

Wednesday, 7 p.m. MT

Marriott Center, Provo

TV: BYUtv

Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYUradio, Sirius XM 143/BYUradio app,

Live stats: byucougars.com

The Word: BYU is 2-0 against Texas Southern, winning 73-52 in 2017 and 76-61 in 1999. … The Tigers will play their first 13 games on the road before getting a home contest against SWAC foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Jan. 8. … BYU’s win against Central Methodist was the 125th of Mark Pope’s career. … The Cougars are ranked in the Top 25 in November for the 12th time in program history.

BYU’s Gavin Baxter reacts to a play during a men’s college basketball game against Central Methodist at the Marriott Center on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2021. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

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