BYU forward Yoeli Childs’ finger injury could stall the Cougars’ WCC plans

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) tries to push past UNLV Rebels forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong (34) as BYU takes on UNLV in men's NCAA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Sat. Dec. 7, 2019.

Provo • As much as the BYU coaching staff hoped and wished Yoeli Childs would be good to go Thursday to face Saint Mary’s in Moraga, Calif., it just wasn’t enough. And the Cougars fell to the Gaels 87-84 in an overtime thriller without their leading scorer.

Now, BYU will host Portland Saturday without Childs.

Childs left Tuesday's practice early after banging up his finger. After practice, coach Mark Pope said the senior forward would be “fine.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, when The Salt Lake Tribune reached out to a BYU official, it was still expected that Childs would play.

That changed sometime Wednesday night and, come Thursday night, Childs was seen in street clothes, a cap and a splint on his finger in Saint Mary's University Credit Union Pavilion.

The final diagnosis: an open dislocation on his right index finger.

During BYU’s Sports Network pre-game show, Pope said they “found out [Wednesday] that he was probably going to be out for, I don’t know, a week, two weeks, something like that.”

When Pope talked to media after the game, he said he didn't have any updates or clear schedule on Childs return.

This isn’t the first time the Cougars have had to adjust to playing without Childs, but it was the quickest turnaround they have had to make without him.

After deciding to forego the NBA draft and come back to BYU for his senior season, a paperwork snafu landed Childs with nine-game NCAA-mandated suspension.

The 6-foot-8 forward came back just in time for the rivalry game against Utah, Dec. 5, but was sidelined early in the second half with cramps in both calves. The Cougars went on to lose in overtime, then the second OT loss.

Without Childs, who’s been averaging 20.9 points and 10.1 rebounds since returning to the lineup, the Cougars have been unable to close out any of their three overtime games.

“This Yoeli Childs is such a champ,” Pope said. “This setback is brutally painful for him because he wants so badly to help these guys. And he's already had to sit on the side for a little bit this year. So, our hearts are with him right now, but we have to go win games. We can't have Yoeli today and we might not have someone else tomorrow and our job is to go win games.”

Now that West Coast Conference play has started, Childs' absence for the next couple of weeks could be felt more than when he served his suspension.

After hosting Portland Saturday, BYU plays San Diego on Jan. 16 and then travels to Gonzaga Jan. 18, Pacific Jan. 23 and San Francisco Jan. 25.

The first two games don’t seem too concerning (Portland has never won in the Marriott Center and San Diego is currently last in the conference standings with a 0-3 WCC record), but the other games could be tougher without Childs.

But even if Childs isn't back for the three-game road stint, he should be back to full health for when the Cougars host the three opponents in Provo.

After falling to the Gaels, senior TJ Haws — who had a team-high 29 points — said the team has to take on a tough mentality going into games without Childs.

“It’s hard to see him go down, but we played nine games this year without him,” Haws said. “It’s almost like it’s a different team without him, but our mindset has to be the exact same in every game.”


At the Marriott Center, Provo

Tipoff » Saturday, 7:30 p.m. MT

TV » BYUtv

Radio » 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius 143

Records » BYU 12-5 (1-1 WCC); Portland 9-8 (1-1 WCC)

All-time series » BYU leads 20-2

Last meeting » BYU 83, Portland 48 (Feb. 7, 2019)

About BYU » Team is coming off an overtime heart-breaking road loss to Saint Mary’s, 87-84. ... The Cougars are without their leading scorer, Yoeli Childs, who’s out for an undetermined amount of time with an open dislocation of the right index finger. ... TJ Haws posted 29 points against the Gaels, and got the game-tying dunk to send the game to overtime. ... Jake Toolson added 24 points, but the combined efforts from the senior guards wasn’t enough to top Saint Mary’s.

About Portland » The Pilots recovered from their tough loss against No. 1 Gonzaga with a win over San Francisco last week to even their WCC record. ... JoJo Walker led the team with 19 points. ... Isaiah White leads Portland, averaging 13.3 points per game. ... The Pilots have never won in the Marriott Center and haven’t beaten the Cougars since 2016.

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