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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
BYU forward Yoeli Childs lands after dunking against Texas Southern at the Marriott Center on Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017.
Games like that, especially when you're a freshman, let you know that you can play at this level and you can be dominant. It establishes a baseline for you and where you ought to be playing consistently. —Yoeli Childs

SAN FRANCISCO — BYU forward Yoeli Childs’ breakout game came as a freshman at War Memorial Gym.

Last year there, Childs posted career highs in both points (23) and rebounds (17) against San Francisco — a performance that showed glimpses of his potential.

Yet going into that contest, there was only one stat he was concerned about.

“I always pray before every game," Childs remembered. "I was getting in so much foul trouble before that, I prayed, ‘Please, I don’t care if my shots don’t go down, just don’t let me get into foul trouble.’"

Then a broad smile spread across his face. "I only had one foul that game,” he said.

These days, double-doubles are quite commonplace for Childs as he and the Cougars visit San Francisco Thursday (9 p.m., MST, AT&T SN RM).

Childs is coming off his latest career-high, a 29-point, 10-rebound effort in last Saturday’s overtime loss to Saint Mary’s. That was two days after scoring a career-high 26 points, to go along with 13 rebounds, in a win over Portland.

Since joining the West Coast Conference seven years ago, BYU (12-3, 1-1) has never lost at War Memorial Gym, including last season’s 68-52 victory at USF.

“I remember we played with good intensity,” Childs recalled. “That was one of our better games on the defensive end and that translated to the offensive side. If we have that same mindset, we can expect a similar outcome.”

The show Childs put on in San Francisco that night served as a confidence-booster for him.

“Games like that, especially when you’re a freshman, let you know that you can play at this level and you can be dominant,” Childs said. “It establishes a baseline for you and where you ought to be playing consistently.”

After averaging 9.3 points and 8.2 rebounds as a freshman, Childs is averaging 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds this season, filling a void left by big man Eric Mika, who turned pro after last season. Childs has recorded seven double-doubles, compared to five a year ago, and has blocked at least two shots 11 times this season.

To what does he attribute his improvement?

“Just hard work. I have great people around me and one of the best facilities in the country,” Childs said. “I was with these coaches every day. They made themselves available late at night. I stayed in the gym all the time and worked on all aspects of my game.”

Last year’s disappointing finish, capped by a loss at home in the NIT, served as a motivator during the offseason.

“We can’t go to the NIT again,” Childs said. “That’s our No. 1 goal, to get back to the NCAA Tournament. That’s definitely a driving factor. That’s why we’re putting the work in.”

Last Saturday's loss at home to Saint Mary’s dealt a blow to BYU’s WCC regular-season title hopes but Childs knows the season is still young.

“It was very disappointing,” he said. “But you have to trust that there’s a plan and whatever happens happens for a reason as long as you learn from it. We learned that we need to finish on the defensive end.”

San Francisco (9-6, 1-1) will certainly test BYU defensively. The Dons are a dangerous 3-point shooting team.

“They shoot 31 3’s a game. They shot 40-plus 3’s in two or three games this year," said coach Dave Rose. "They run Princeton action but they run it so fast and so quick. A lot of backdoors and a lot of pops for 3s. We’re going to have to be on it for long periods of time. We can’t have many lapses in this game.”

Rose can’t explain why his team has posted a perfect record (6-0) at USF. War Memorial Gym is the only WCC road venue that the Cougars haven’t lost in since becoming members of the conference.

“If you went back and looked at the timing of the games, what was going on in certain times of the season, that has a lot to do with it,” Rose said. “Our guys have been fortunate over there. Hopefully we can keep it going. We’ve had some games where we couldn’t make a shot there and still figured out a way to win. We’ve had other games where we had a kid score 30 points before halftime, it seems like.”

Rose is eager to see how his team responds Thursday after a heart-breaking loss to Saint Mary’s, which snapped BYU’s nine-game winning streak.

“We’ll see how we respond," Rose said, "to the emotional letdown of the game the other night.”

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Cougars on the air

BYU (12-3, 1-1)

at San Francisco (9-6, 1-1)

Thursday, 9 p.m. MST Marriott Center

TV: AT&T SN RM

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM