Southern Cal 74, Baylor 70

Southern Cal 74, Baylor 70


LOS ANGELES - It’s going to take more than a bloody nose to stop JuJu Watkins.

“I’m still intact,” the star freshman said, smiling.

Watkins scored 30 points for her record-setting fourth 30-point game of the season after getting hit in the nose and No. 6 Southern California routed Cal Poly 85-44 on Tuesday night.

Watkins snapped a tie with Trojan greats Lisa Leslie and Paula McGee, who had three 30-point efforts in their freshman years. Watkins was 10 of 19 from the floor and made all seven of her free throw attempts to go with four rebounds, four assists and four turnovers.

Watkins had 32 points in her collegiate debut against Ohio State, then scored 35 against Le Moyne and 31 against Penn State.

It took a collision under the basket with Cal Poly’s Natalia Ackerman to get Watkins out of the game in the third quarter with the Trojans leading by 26 points.

“Sorry to the girl that I hit. I was out of control in that one,” Watkins said. “Just a little collision.”

The Mustangs scored nine points in a row while Watkins was in the locker room getting her right nostril plugged. She returned to the court with 36 seconds left in the third and made a pair of free throws.

The quarter ended with a bang when Kayla Padilla stole the ball and fed McKenzie Forbes, who chucked a 3-pointer that beat the buzzer.

“I wasn’t sure there was time left,” Forbes said. “I just threw it up there confidently.”

In the third, Forbes reached the 1,000-point plateau in her career, which includes stops at California and Harvard.

“It kind of makes you reflect back on your college career,” Forbes said. “Coach mentioned in the locker room she witnessed my first basket (at Cal) and now here we are five years later. It means a lot to me not just to accomplish that, but to do it with her at this school and with the teammates that I have.”

Playing with their highest ranking in the AP Top 25 poll in 29 years, the Trojans (6-0) made easy work of the overmatched Mustangs (2-5).

Forbes added 14 points and Rayah Marshall had 10 points for the Trojans, who had eight of their 10 players score. USC got 25 points from its bench.

“Our depth is a strength of ours,” Trojans coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We know we have different pieces who can do different things. That allows us to play a different way, allows us to rest some people, but allows us to keep coming at opponents in a way that we want to.”

Mary Carter led Cal Poly with 11 points and Sydney Bourland added 10. The Mustangs committed 25 turnovers that led to 31 points by the Trojans.

Watkins scored nine of the Trojans’ first 12 points in the fourth. She hit a 3-pointer and converted a one-handed layup off her own steal before cheering on her teammates from the bench. She jumped up and down when Aaliyah Gayles hit a 3-pointer late for her first points of the season. Gayles is playing for the first time after being shot multiple times at a house party in Las Vegas in 2022.

“Love her,” Watkins said. “The bench was going crazy. She’s been working every day. She inspires us to work hard. She does not take one day off, so to see her finally get that first bucket back was amazing.”

USC ran off 10 straight points, including six by Watkins, in the second quarter on its way to a 42-20 halftime lead. The Trojans hit five straight 3-pointers during a 15-2 run in the first quarter, getting two from Watkins.


Cal Poly: The Mustangs have had a rough start to the season, going 2-5 away from home. They played three ranked Pac-12 teams, losing by 17 points to Washington State, by 54 points to Stanford and by 41 to the Trojans.

USC: The Trojans closed the first month of the season with a 6-0 mark, winning three games on neutral courts. They very well could be 10-0 by the end of December when they face their biggest challenge to date in crosstown rival and second-ranked UCLA.


Watkins and her teammates are juggling finals with a busy practice and playing schedule.

“Two finals coming up,” she said. “I’m studying for those while also making sure I’m working hard on the court.”

Southern Cal athletics press release

March 30, 2024

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