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BYU men's basketball: Childs leads Cougars in 81-71 win over CSU Bakersfield

PROVO — BYU freshman Yoeli Childs was one of the two requested interviews for the second game in a row following BYU's 81-71 win over CSU Bakersfield on Thursday. And should the 6-foot-8 Bingham product continue his upswing in play, he'll likely be fielding a lot more requests moving forward.

Childs finished Thursday's win with perhaps his best effort to date — scoring 19 points while pulling down 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. While solid to start out, he was particularly strong late in the first half and into the second while Eric Mika was on the bench in foul trouble.

"I think it was this guy, right here," answered guard Nick Emery, motioning to Childs after the game when asked how the team overcame Mika's persistent foul trouble in the win. "Yoeli did a great job of getting it up court, and he made some big-time plays — especially in the first half. … He got us guards some open shots, and we were able to knock it down tonight."

As for Emery, he knocked down 5-of-7 3-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 23 points. The 6-foot-2 sophomore did his best work in the first half, when BYU got out to a big 47-27 lead before the break.

“I thought our first half might have been as good as we’ve played — maybe all year in a stretch,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “Defensively we were really kind of dialed in, and we rebounded the ball really good off of misses.”

What made the first half even better was the Cougars playing most of it without Mika.

The 6-foot-10 sophomore picked up his second foul with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half, and with BYU leading 28-15. BYU then had to make do without its most dominant player for the duration of the half, with Mika sitting the remainder, yet worked to build upon the lead.

Childs was obviously a big reason for the Cougars' effective play sans Mika, as he dominated the paint on both ends.

“It might have been the first game this year where we won where Eric wasn’t just a man-child and dominated the game,” Rose said. “He helped us, obviously, with a double-double … but we’re used to having Eric having really big games.”

Mika sat for large portions of the second-half, as well, picking up his fourth foul midway through before finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

As for his uptick in play, Childs said it's a result of “just getting more minutes out there, and learning from experience helps a lot. I think you can get a lot better in practice, but on-court minutes really help you out a lot. The game really slows down for you, and I have great teammates.”

The Cougars appeared poised to cruise to victory before the Roadrunners slowly worked their way back — cutting the lead to 70-61 with 5:08 remaining. The big reason for the comeback was Roadrunner guard Damiyne Durham suddenly getting hot from the field, while the Cougars struggled with turnovers and missed free throws.

“With a young group, that just kind of took the real confidence out of us, but we kind of just hung on and won the game,” Rose said.

Overall, the Cougars hit on 53.1 percent of their field goals and 47 percent from behind the arc.

“Those are terrific numbers for us,” Rose said. “I think that’s where we can be, overall, and we haven’t been close to that yet.”

As for the numbers Rose frowned on, those would be the 21 turnovers committed and 18 offensive rebounds yielded to CSUB.

“Those are thing we’ll address and evaluate,” Rose said.

With the win, BYU improves to 9-4 on the year and will now have a week off before taking on Santa Clara Dec. 29 at the Marriott Center.