SALT LAKE CITY — BYU forward Yoeli Childs received a baseline pass from TJ Haws, took one dribble, soared high in the air and hammered down a jaw-dropping dunk over, and between, two Utah defenders.
That play evoked the biggest cheer of the night from fans at Vivint Arena — from Cougar fans, at least — and it was Childs’ signature play in a memorable performance against the Utes.
Childs finished with 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead BYU to a 74-59 victory over the Utes in a Saturday matinee edition of the rivalry game witnessed by a crowd of 10,678.
“I couldn’t help but smile. That was wild,” Haws said of Childs’ resounding throw down that happened midway through the second half. “I think we’ll be seeing that on SportsCenter for sure. It’s fun to assist on a dunk like that.”
When asked about the play after the game, Childs downplayed it. It’s not as if dunking is something unusual for him.
“A dunk kind of gets your teammates pumped up and gets the crowd into it,” Childs said.
In addition to posterizing Utah's Novak Topalovic and Both Gath on that dunk, Childs knocked down a 3-pointer and hit an array of step-back jumpers and hook shots, going 13 of 16 from the floor overall.
Childs scored BYU’s first 12 points, and he hit 11 of his first 12 shots from the floor.
“I was really pleased with how we started the game, right to Yo, right to Yo, right to Yo,” said coach Dave Rose.
“(The Utes) weren’t doubling down and my teammates were just feeding me,” Childs said. “It’s kind of our recipe — if they’re not doubling, throw it in, and if they are, I’ll just kick it out and guys will make shots. I’m really lucky to have teammates like that and teammates that have trust in me, and I have all the trust in the world in them.”
From the outset it was clear that Childs wanted to win this game. It’s the rivalry game, after all. Not to mention that he wasn’t recruited by Utah. Did that provide some added motivation?
“I try not to think too much about it. I used to want to prove people wrong. I wanted to prove the haters wrong,” Childs said. “But I’ve switched my mindset in the last couple of years to prove the people who believe in me right. I’m more about proving coach Rose right for recruiting me so hard, proving my family right for believing in me and proving my teammates right for putting trust in me.”
No doubt, beating Utah is always a sweet feeling for BYU.
“It’s awesome. Everyone wants to say, ‘It’s just another game. But it’s a big rivalry game. It means a lot,” Childs said. “I look at a lot of fans in the state and how much these games mean to them. It’s a game where you go out and lose, you have a bunch of little kids that are sad at home all night. It’s a little bit more than your average game. You have to think about the fans that are supporting your school and rooting for your school. It makes you really happy to make them proud.”
For Childs, it was his third consecutive 31-point effort, marking the first time a Cougar has scored at least 30 points in three straight games since some guy named Jimmer Fredette.
“It’s awesome to be in the same sentence as Jimmer. He’s a stud,” Childs said. “I’ve said before that 30 points is a lot of shots. You can’t have 30 without shooting a lot. Shout-out to my teammates for getting me the ball.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak acknowledged that Childs proved to be too much to handle for his team.
“It was tough, for sure — heck of a player and he’s just playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “He’s their head of the snake, no doubt about it, and he put it on us and did what you’re supposed to do in an in-state rivalry game when you’re an in-state kid. He rose to the occasion, and we didn‘t have many answers for it.”
Haws recorded 18 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Zac Seljaas chipped in 14 points, six rebounds, three assists and five steals.
“Zac played with a lot of heart. Those three guys — TJ, Yoeli and Zac — have grown up in this state with the rivalry,” Rose said. “I’m happy for all three of them.”
Utah trailed 32-28 at halftime. BYU opened the second half scoring 13 unanswered points, including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by Seljaas, Childs and Haws to give the Cougars a 45-28 advantage. Utah was scoreless through the first seven minutes of the half, missing its first seven shots.
“We didn’t play great in the first half by any means,” Childs said. “We came into the locker room and we were happy to be up by four with how bad we played offensively. We knew if we turned it on and make extra plays we could open it up.”
On the day, BYU knocked down 7-of-24 3-pointers, and it outrebounded the Utes 40-28.28 comments on this story
“That was our No. 1 key to the game, was to rebound,” Childs said. “We knew they were a lot bigger than us and a lot longer than us, and they were going to try to bully us on the glass. We have three keys to every game, and the first one was to beat them on the glass.”
In the end, the day, and the game, belonged to the Cougars.
“The atmosphere was great. I respect Utah but I think our student section was a lot better," Childs said. "It felt a lot more like a home game than an away game. It was a neutral game but a little more on our side.”