The Yoeli-less Cougars did just fine.
BYU’s comfortable 98-63 victory against Montana Tech on Saturday afternoon in front of 10,990 fans the Marriott Center was expected, but a 6-3 record in the preseason without its best player?
That’s a bonus.
Childs – forced to sit out the first nine games of the preseason because of the NCAA’s cold, dark, corruptible heart – will be back on the court for Wednesday’s matchup at rival Utah.
“It was a remarkable day because it was Game 9,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “We’ve had Game 9 circled on our calendar for a while. We’re going to get an injection of Yoeli into this roster.”
Childs had to have been pleased with what he saw from his teammates against the NAIA Orediggers as the Cougars shot 69 percent (35 of 51) from the field – the fourth-best mark in school history -- and 12 of 23 (52 percent) from the 3-point line. Inconsistent defense and too many turnovers (15) were likely a result of BYU playing its fourth game in six days with a long trip to Hawaii included.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Pope said. “We’ve come in here (the post-game interview) and talked about us being sticky with the ball. It was not sticky today. We were bordering on overpassing, but that’s just a tribute to our guys. It was nice to be back in our own gym.”
Senior T.J. Haws – who turned in a tidy performance with 15 points on 5 of 6 from the field, 4 for 4 from the 3-point line and six assists in 27 minutes – said the Cougars have learned about trusting each other with Childs out of the lineup.
“We’ve grown a lot since the beginning of the season,” he said. “We’ve learned a ton and I feel good about the state of the team.”
Jake Toolson led BYU with 17 points (7 of 10 from the field) and was joined in double figures by Haws, Zac Seljaas (14 points) and Kolby Lee (11). In fact, eight Cougars scored at least eight points and 10 of the 12 players who played scored points.
Montana Tech (4-3) -- which went into Missoula and upset Division I Montana in an exhibition game earlier this year -- made just enough 3-pointers (8 of 15) to keep the game from becoming a true blowout until the final eight minutes, but BYU led the entire way. The Cougars made 17 of 23 shots (74 percent) and converting 5 of 9 (56 percent) from the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes.
Haws handed out three assists and scored five points in the first five minutes of the game to get BYU out to a 12-3 lead. Toolson scored eight straight points and it was 22-11 at the 12:16 mark. A 14-3 burst by the Cougars – with a pair of 3-pointers and a nice dish to Dalton Nixon for a layup by Haws – pushed the home team out to its largest lead of the half at 45-24 with 3:20 to play in the half. BYU settled for a 51-35 advantage at the break.
The second half was more of the same. A 15-4 Cougar run midway through the half included a pair of 3-pointers from Seljaas and another from Toolson and Connor Harding’s layup got BYU to a 77-51 lead with 8:40 to play.
Some other numbers: The Cougars led by as many as 35 points, scored 22 points off of Montana Tech turnovers, had 37 points off the bench and outscored the Orediggers 40-20 in the paint.
It was just the kind of “stretch your legs” game BYU needed to get ready for a difficult week in Salt Lake City and finally unleash Childs on the rest of college basketball.
“I’m pleased where we are at,” Pope said. “6-3 in awesome, but my evaluation is less based on the record. It’s based more on the progress I think we’ve made in the last month and I think we’ve made some really good progress.”
On Wednesday, the Cougars meet rival Utah at the Huntsman Center and on Saturday former Mountain West Conference foe UNLV will take on BYU at Vivint Smart Home Arena.