STOCKTON, Calif. — For two weeks as he nursed a compound dislocation of the index finger on his right (shooting) hand, BYU forward Yoeli Childs languished on the bench, desperately wanting to play with, and help, his teammates. 

After missing four games, Childs, sporting a bandage on his finger, returned to the court Thursday night at the Spanos Center and overcame a rough start to pour in 26 points and grab nine rebounds in 31 minutes of play. 

“I was struggling early. It was weird getting back into it but the guys were super supportive and they picked me up as always. It was a ton of fun.” — BYU’s Yoeli Childs

“It’s awesome. Best day ever,” Childs said after the Cougars’ 74-60 victory over Pacific. “It sucks when I can’t help this team out there on the court. But it feels so good to be back out here. I was struggling early. It was weird getting back into it but the guys were super supportive and they picked me up as always. It was a ton of fun.”

Guard Jake Toolson couldn’t wait to play with Childs again.

“I’m so glad to have him back,” he said. “Nine fingers, four fingers, zero fingers, I don’t care, man. He’s so good and such a big part of what we do. I’m so happy for him.” 

What has the previous two weeks been like for Childs? How has he endured this latest challenge? 

“Faith, man. You’ve got to have faith through everything. I trust that there’s a plan bigger than my plan,” he said. “I believe in my team and I understand that I have to control what I can control and let God take care of the rest.” 

Coach Mark Pope allowed Childs to participate in his first practice since the injury last Tuesday. Then he practiced again Wednesday and Pope decided Childs was ready to return to game action. 

“I thought he was remarkable tonight. You could tell there was some rust but he caught balls and he didn’t shy away from physicality,” Pope said. “That was the part I was most concerned about. I thought he was terrific tonight.”

But BYU’s first few possessions featured some shaky moments for Childs, including a turnover, a missed 3-pointer and a missed jumper. But he didn’t stay down for long. What else would you expect from a guy who has had to sit out nine games due to an NCAA suspension and four more due to an injury?

Childs, Toolson take over in carrying BYU past Pacific
3 takeaways from the BYU Cougars’ 74-60 win over the Pacific Tigers

“Maybe more than anything else, I’m proud of Yoeli about managing frustration, because he did,” Pope said. “He let himself take some hard shots and then he had some solid results after that. We’re all super happy to have him back.”

Against Pacific, the Cougars didn’t rely only on Childs. Toolson scored a game-high 28 points, including 6 of 8 from 3-point range. 

During a six-minute stretch starting midway through the second half, Toolson knocked down four 3-pointers as part of a game-changing 21-0 run that transformed a 53-51 deficit into a 72-53 lead. 

“I saw a couple go down and I was just feeling it. We were getting stops and went on a run,” Toolson said. “It was a lot of fun. The energy in this building was crazy. I’m just glad we got the win. It was a huge game for us.” 

“I just said, ‘Give him the ball. We don’t need to run plays, we don’t need to do anything. Just give him the ball and get out of the way,’” Childs said of Toolson. “It’s fun when you have a teammate like that.”

Said Pope, “Our guys always have the green light. Jake has been with me for a long time. He knows how much faith that we have in him and his team has in him. He was running downcourt saying, ‘Let’s go here.’ He made some impossible shots. It’s such a luxury to have a guy on a team like that … and he did it under duress.”

For all of the heroics by Childs and Toolson, for BYU (15-6, 4-2), this was a full team effort. 

Dalton Nixon drew a couple of charges against Pacific’s top player, Jahlil Tripp. Zac Seljaas played indefatigable defense, helping the Cougars to play their style of offense. TJ Haws and Alex Barcello hit timely shots. 

“We had so many guys contribute. Dalton Nixon was unbelievable, taking two of charges on Tripp early was huge and Zac getting in there and fighting,” Pope said. “Having Yoeli back really helps us. (Barcello) had a big-time game today in terms of his decision-making, it was really special. Just go down the list.”

Toolson credited his team’s defensive performance for making the difference in the second half. The Cougars overcame getting beat 11-2 on second-chance points. 

“They were driving on us all night. We tried to keep the ball in front of us. Once they put it up, we had to rebound,” Toolson said. “They had probably too many offensive rebounds tonight. But I’m proud of the progress that we made throughout the course of the game. In the second half, we were able to get a lot of stops.”

Of course, Childs’ return is huge for a team battling to get into the NCAA Tournament. He’s still adjusting to play with his injured finger.  

“To start the game, I was a little bit timid. I’m kind of mad at myself for that,” he said. “But once we started going, I just kind of forgot about it. My touch is a little bit different so I’m still getting used to it. But I don’t think it’s too big of a deal.”

Childs is even using his left hand to shoot more, partly out of necessity and partly because it’s something he’s developing. As hard as it’s been having to be sidelined because of an injury during conference play, Childs, as usual, chooses to look at the positive side. 

“I try to have the mentality that everything’s going to help my game. I’m trying to improve every day,” he said. “The first little while, I couldn’t use my right hand at all. So I was just getting tons of shots up with my left hand and working on that touch. Hopefully, that helps down the road.”

Childs’ return certainly helped BYU earn its first West Coast Conference road win Thursday night. And there are more road tests ahead, including Saturday’s showdown at San Francisco.