Three Takeaways From BYU’s Win Over San Francisco
PROVO, Utah – BYU entered Saturday night’s game against USF on a three-game losing streak against the Dons. After what appeared to be another potential comeback brewing by USF, BYU made sure to not let that happen again by pulling away late to earn a 90-76 victory.
Here are the three takeaways from Saturday’s victory at the Marriott Center
#1 Comeback Part III avoided
The last two losses for BYU against USF have come courtesy of comebacks by the Dons. After going up by 25 points at the 15-minute mark in the second half, USF cut the deficit down to seven with 2:31 remaining. Flashes of Frankie Ferrari and Khalil Shabazz before the eyes of BYU fans everywhere at that moment.
But seniors Yoeli Childs and Jake Toolson made sure that wouldn’t happen again. BYU’s senior stars knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to get the lead back to 14 and ultimately send USF with their first loss to the Cougars since 2018.
In the network pregame show on KSL NewsRadio, color analyst Mark Durrant said Jake Toolson might be one of the best shooters in BYU history. The dagger Toolson knocked down to bury USF’s hopes for another win over BYU showed how clutch Toolson is from beyond the arc.
#2 USF’s trap defense made the game closer than it needed to be
After the under-12 media timeout, BYU was up by 20 points and when the teams came back on the floor. Mark Pope sent in a lineup that hasn’t been used much at all this season. Starter Alex Barcello was the guard along with four reserves in Dalton Nixon, Connor Harding, Zac Seljaas, and preferred walk-on Blaze Nield.
Against this lineup, USF started to bring a full-court trap and it got their comeback attempt started. The trap defense gave BYU’s guards issues. Nield had not played five minutes in a West Coast Conference game this season. His previous high in conference play was against San Diego on January 16th, where he saw three minutes of action with BYU holding a big lead.
Pope has said in the past that he has wanted to find spots to get Nield into games, but hasn’t had the chance to do so. The lack of offensive firepower in that lineup that gave Nield a rare opportunity for important minutes left him as BYU’s lone player with a minus rating in plus/minus on the night. Nield finished the game with a minus-six on the floor.
Barcello and even TJ Haws had their moments of struggle with USF’s traps and it kept the Dons within striking distance.
The final 15 minutes of the game left Pope in a “grieving” mood in the postgame press conference. This will be a learning opportunity for his team as they move closer to the conference tournament in Las Vegas next month.
#3 Yoeli Childs’ greatness was on full display
Towards the end of the game when you looked at the box score, you might have been surprised to see Childs with 32 points. His points came within the offense and USF was not doubling on the Karl Malone Award candidate at any point in the game, trying to have others on BYU not named Yoeli beat them.
Childs ended up with 32 points, two points shy of a career-high, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and one blocked shot. But he’d push that all to the side to not have allowed USF to make a run as they did in the second half. Childs said he had a “pit in his stomach” for USF getting back into the game.
This BYU team is striving for more than just some regular-season wins and Childs, who turned down six-figure salaries to play his senior year at BYU knows they will have to get better in order to make a run in March.
BYU assistant coach Cody Fueger said earlier this week on Cougar Tracks that Childs is a great ambassador for not just BYU basketball but the entire university. It’s hard to ignore those sentiments with how much work and commitment Childs has put into helping lead this BYU team to new heights that they haven’t experienced since he’s been a Cougar.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.