Yoeli Childs makes sensational season debut for BYU, but injury cuts him short in overtime loss to Utah

(Michael Mangum | Special to The Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) dunks the ball during their game against the Utah Utes at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

BYU senior forward Yoeli Childs made a big splash in his season debut against Utah on Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center.

But Childs, like the Cougars, fell just short in a 102-95 overtime loss to the Utes at the Huntsman Center.

After serving his nine-game suspension, handed down by the NCAA due to a paperwork snafu when Childs withdrew from the NBA draft and chose to come back to BYU, the 6-foot-8 forward started hot, hitting three-straight three-pointers at the start of the game. His shooting range continues to improve.

But Childs was eventually sidelined with what appeared to be cramps with less than five minutes left in the second half. It was the second time he walked off to be treated behind the bench, but didn’t return to action this time.

Asked after the game if cramping was the issue — which Childs has dealt with before in his career — BYU coach Mark Pope said they “don’t know yet, we’re not sure.”

But one thing is for sure: if not for the injury, Childs was on track for a career night.

Before he departed, the forward scored 29 points on 12 of 16 shooting. That was just shy of the 31 he scored against the Utes last year at Vivint Arena. And his career-high 33 points, set against Saint Mary’s in 2018, was certainly within reach.

(Michael Mangum | Special to The Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope yells to his team during their game against the Utah Utes at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019.

Jake Toolson, who added 27 points, suspected his teammate’s suspension-induced layoff may have played a role in Childs’ injury.

“I guess, from not playing for eight or nine games, his body is just not ready to play 40 minutes,” Toolson said.

The loss of Childs would have been bearable had the Cougars not had two other players foul out. TJ Haws and Dalton Nixon both claimed their fifth fouls just over a minute apart toward the end of regulation.

However, the Cougars had bigger issues in the second half. BYU committed 15 fouls in the second half, while the Utes were whistled for just eight — which left Pope visibly unhappy in the aftermath.

The Cougars also cooled off. After shooting 8 of 12 from the 3-point line in the first half, they were a chilly 1 of 6 after intermission.

The performance Pope saw in the first half, when the Cougars led by as many as 16 points, is something he says the Cougars can take away and build on, though it didn’t erase the sting of the final result.

“That's how I expect we play – that's how we play,” Pope said. “I'm just super disappointed with the second half.”

But Yoeli Childs picked up right where he left off before the injury. Provided it’s not serious, that’s the best news the Cougars got on Wednesday.