Yoeli Childs says the BYU-Utah rivalry basketball game is “a little more than your average game.”
And the former Bingham High star showed Saturday he is more than an average college basketball player.
Excuse the trite expression, but Childs played like a man among boys in Saturday’s Beehive Classic encounter at Vivint Smart Home Arena in front of an announced crowd of 10,768 fans, scoring 31 points — highlighted by a spectacular dunk over Utah’s Novak Topalovic — in the Cougars’ 74-59 win in Salt Lake City.
“It was awesome,” said Childs, who went 13 of 16 from the field. “Everyone wants to say it is just another game. But it is a big rivalry game and it means a lot. I look at a lot of the fans in the state and how much this game means to them. And it is a game where, you go out and you lose, and you got a bunch of little kids that are sad at home. … You gotta think about the fans and the people that are supporting the school and rooting for your school. It makes you really happy to make them proud.”
The Cougars (7-4) have now defeated Utah (4-4) two straight times and in nine of the last 12 meetings. And Childs has scored exactly 31 points in each of their last three games against instate foes, Weber State, Utah State and now Utah.
“Those are NBA-type moves, hard to stop,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “We [also] had a couple breakdowns in coverage where he got dunks and got things going.”
BYU 74, UTAH 59
• Yoeli Childs turns in a monster game — 31 points on 13 of 16 shooting and 11 rebounds — as the Cougars wallop the Utes for the second-straight year
• BYU opens the second half on a 13-0 run and shoots 57 percent in the final 20 minutes to win going away
• Sedrick Barefield leads Utah with 16 points, but takes 18 shots to get there in front of an announced crowd of 10,768
It happened right from the start, as Childs, a 6-foot-8 junior, scored BYU’s first 12 points before Zac Seljaas drained a 3-pointer and a layup to give the Cougars a 17-12 lead. Seljaas added 14 points and TJ Haws chipped in 18, but this was Childs’ afternoon from the opening tip.
He became the first BYU player to score 30 or more points in three consecutive games since Jimmer Fredette in 2010-11.
“It is awesome to be in the same sentence as Jimmer,” Childs said. “But I have said it before, 30 points is a lot of shots. … Credit to my teammates for getting me the ball.”
Utah chose not to double-team Childs early like most teams have done, and he made the Utes pay. He also played with a “little bit” of extra emotion because Utah didn’t offer him a scholarship out of high school.
“I used to want to prove people wrong,” he said. “I have kind of switched my mindset the last couple of years to prove the people who believed in me right.”
Sedrick Barefield led Utah with 16 points, albeit on 6 of 18 shooting, while Timmy Allen added 13. The Utes foundered when nobody seemed willing to take the initiative offensively. Riley Battin hit three 3-pointers, after having entered the game with seven 3-pointers, to help Utah stay reasonably close until BYU answered his trey that cut the Cougars’ lead to 50-41 with just less than nine minutes remaining.
BYU scored on 11 straight trips down the floor — a couple of those possessions were extended when the Utes had defensive rebounds stripped from their hands — and coast in the final few minutes. The Cougars shot 57 percent in the second half, and out-rebounded the taller Utes, 40-28.
Six offensive rebounds for BYU in the first half led to eight second-chance points, and 10 overall led to a 14-7 advantage over the Utes in that category.
Rose gave freshman Connor Harding his first career start, and he contributed with five points and five rebounds. Luke Worthington made a couple buckets when the Cougars were losing the momentum in the second half.
“We don’t normally shoot really well in here,” said Rose, who hasn’t lost a game at the home of the Utah Jazz since falling to Michigan State in 2003. “But tonight, 48 percent [in the game] might have been one of our better nights. Our guys look forward to this game.”
Because it is not just another game, as Yoeli Childs would attest.