PROVO — At the start of the week, BYU was reeling, carrying the burden of a three-game losing streak, including an embarrassing 113-103 loss at Weber State.
The Cougars looked lost and listless, and the future seemed bleak.
Well, BYU (7-4) showed resiliency and resolve his week, bouncing back quite nicely by crushing in-state foes Utah State and Utah.
Coach Dave Rose enjoyed seeing his team playing with “purpose” in those games, including a dominating 74-59 victory over the archrival Utes Saturday afternoon at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
“We’ve found two games back-to-back where I think the guys have been really connected on both ends of the floor for long periods of time,” Rose said.
Junior forward Yoeli Childs poured in 31 points and collected 11 rebounds against Utah. Childs has scored 31 points in each of the last three games. He's the first BYU player to score 30-plus in three-straight games since Jimmer Fredette, who had 30-plus in his final five games in a Cougar uniform in 2011.
Also this week, the Cougars welcomed back guard Nick Emery after a nine-game NCAA suspension. Emery scored 11 points, including three 3-pointers, against the Aggies in his season debut last Wednesday.
Emery didn’t score in 12 minutes of action against Utah, but his return to the court has been a catalyst in BYU’s recent success.
“This might sound a little bit funny or awkward, but Nick completes this team,” Rose said. “We’ve been practicing since June. We knew he was going to come back. We knew there were going to be a lot of issues. We knew there was going to be a lot of public scrutiny and individual scrutiny of him and me. The fact that he’s back and we’re rolling, it feels good because we’re whole and we’re together.”
The Cougars host Portland State Wednesday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv) in the final non-conference home game of the regular season.
Then BYU takes on UNLV at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Saturday, followed by games at San Diego State and Mississippi State on Dec. 22 and Dec. 29, respectively.
The Cougars open West Coast Conference play Jan. 3 at Pacific.
Against Utah, Rose inserted freshman guard Connor Harding into the starting lineup for the first time. Harding scored five points and grabbed five rebounds.
“Connor’s got a great basketball IQ, just how to figure things out. But the feel that he has is tremendous,” Rose said. “We put him in the starting lineup and we’ll see where we go in the next couple of weeks as we get ready for league (play). I like the way he responded to almost every situation.”
Guard Zac Seljaas scored 14 points, drilled two 3-pointers, collected six rebounds, dished out three assists and added five steals against the Utes. TJ Haws had 18 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists.
“He came out really aggressive. He was shooting the ball, getting to the basket,” Haws said of Seljaas. “He did a little bit of everything. When he plays like that, it definitely spaces out the floor for everyone else.”9 comments on this story
BYU has now won back-to-back games against Utah. Overall, the Cougars have won 13 of the last 17 contests against the Utes, dating back to 2007.
“Winning games is the very best,” Rose said. “Some wins are better than others.”
What is the Cougars’ confidence level after victories over USU and Utah this past week?
“It’s high but not too high. After a couple of losses in a row, we try not to get too low,” Childs said. “After a couple of good wins, we try not to get too high. We’re trying to stay even-keeled but work hard and believe in ourselves.”