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BYU Men’s Hoops: Big nights for Childs, Bryant pace Cougars to win

December 29, 2017

Basketball is a team game, but sometimes individual performances are too good to ignore.

Time to sing the praises of Yoeli Childs and Elijah Bryant.

Childs and Bryant took turns tormenting Portland’s defense in Thursday’s 69-45 blowout in front of 16,592 fans at the Marriott Center to open West Coast Conference play, the Cougars ninth straight win.

“Eli and Yo were huge on both ends,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “They were rebounding the ball, converting baskets at the rim and getting to the free throw line. It was a good lift for us.”

Childs posted a career-high 26 points and added 13 rebounds while Bryant totaled 22 points and a career-best 15 boards.

“We’ve been talking all year about no matter what the defense does, it’s wrong,” Childs said. “Their big was coming off to our guards so I was getting easy dump-offs. We’re a frustrating team to guard when we play like that, unselfish.”

Bryant turned to Childs during the post-game interviews and said, “Once we got back to our concepts and slowed down a little bit, fed this guy the ball and then everything kind of slowed down.”

The team concept made an impact, too, on the defensive end. Portland came into the game shooting 41 percent from the 3-point line and making an average of 10 triples a game. Against BYU, the Pilots made just 7 of 27 for 26 percent, misfiring on their final 13 attempts beyond the arc. The Cougars held Portland 32 points below their scoring average (77 points per game).

“That’s a good way to start the league with a game where our guys were really committed on the defensive end,” Rose said. “They are a team that’s hard for us with their size and how they play. They spread you out and it makes it tough to guard the perimeter. In the first half we did a really good job getting into the gaps and getting them to turn the ball over. It was a good thing we got turnovers and got some easy baskets because we were having a heck of time scoring.

“In the second half we got even better defensively. League wins are always a little bit special when you get that first one.”

Childs scored 10 straight points to end the first half. Bryant threw a length-of-the-court pass to beat the Portland press and Childs slammed the ball home for a 23-20 lead. As the half wound down, Childs flew down the lane and dunked the ball with two hands for a 31-24 advantage at the break.

Portland made 4 of 6 from the field to start the second half and pulled to within one, 36-35, on a basket by Tahirou Diabate with 16:12 to play. The Cougars seized control of the game with a 20-4 run over the next 10 minutes, with Childs dominating inside and Bryant slashing to the hole for layups. BYU outscored the Pilots 33-10 in the final 16 minutes of the game, with Bryant’s long 3-pointer pushing the Cougar lead to 59-42 with 4:53 remaining.

BYU (1-0, 12-2) shot a solid 50 percent from the field (26 of 52) but a nasty 20 percent (3 of 15) from the 3-point line. The Cougars outscored Portland 40-18 in the paint and outrebounded the visitors 46-28.

JoJo Walker led Portland (0-1, 6-8) with 11 points with Josh McSwiggan and Franklin Porter adding nine points each.

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell, who played against Bryant while the two were in prep school, attended the game. Mitchell played at Brewster Academy and Bryant at New Hampton, both schools in New Hampshire.

The Cougars will take on league-favorite Saint Mary’s in an afternoon game (2 p.m.) at the Marriott Center on Saturday.