The BYU men’s basketball team fashioned a 6-3 record in the preseason with Yoeli Childs out of the lineup serving an NCAA suspension.
Time to dust off those game plans.
With Childs on the court, the Cougars were able to take advantage of double teams in the post and get wide-open looks for their shooters. Now Childs — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder — is out indefinitely with an open dislocation of his right index finger. Depending on the severity of the injury to the tendons, Childs could be sidelined for as little as a week or as many as four weeks or more.
In the meantime, the BYU offense will look a lot like it did in Thursday’s 87-83 overtime loss at Saint Mary’s — plenty of isolation plays for T.J. Haws and Jake Toolson. Haws scored 23 of his team-high 29 points in the second half and overtime and Toolson managed 18 of his 24 during the same time span. The effort fell just short and the Cougars (1-1 WCC, 11-5 overall) face an uncertain future without Childs.
“My heart really goes out to Yoeli,” BYU coach Mark Pope said in his post-game radio interview. “He’s an extraordinary human being. He had to sit on the sideline to start the season and he handled that with incredible grace. He’s a great teammate and it’s killing him to be on the sideline right now.”
The Cougars held Saint Mary’s to just 9 for 28 (32%) from the 3-point line, well below their NCAA leading 42%. But the Gaels found other ways to score against BYU’s depleted interior defense. Forward Dan Fotu, a 6-foot-7 player averaging less than 4 points a game, had 16 points on 6 of 8 from the field. Jock Perry, 7-1, had a season high eight points in 3 of 3 shooting.
Every backup big man in the WCC is licking his chops in preparation for facing the undersized Cougars until Childs gets back.
Not that BYU won’t battle, but numbers are numbers.
Pope said his team is up to the challenge of facing a good portion of the league schedule without Childs.
“This is special team,” Pope said. “They are going to accomplish special things and it’s going to be really, really hard. That’s what sports is. They are going to feel sick all night, they are going to feel sick tomorrow and probably feel sick for the next two weeks but we don’t have that luxury. We can’t indulge in that. We have a good Portland team coming in on Saturday. This is about getting better every day. That’s what separates great teams from good teams.”
Portland — which won just seven games last season — has nine wins after beating San Francisco 76-65 last week. The victory broke a five-game losing streak that included a loss to top-ranked Gonzaga where the Pilots led by seven at halftime.
Portland (1-1, 9-8) has a strong guard line led by Maine graduate transfer Isaiah White (13.3 ppg, 28 3-pointers) and junior Jo Jo Walker (11.1 ppg, 24 3s). Taki Fahrensohn, a 6-6 sophomore, is shooting 45 percent from the 3-point line. But the undersized Cougars could have trouble with 6-10 Tahirou Diabate and 7-foot Jacob Tryon if the Pilots focus on getting the ball inside.
“Our most important job right now is rehabilitating our spirit, our heart, our competitiveness, our fight and managing the frustration that comes with a night like tonight,” Pope said.