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Watkins scores 32 and No. 10 USC pulls away in 3rd to beat Arizona 81-64 for its 4th straight win

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — With under a month left in the regular season, JuJu Watkins has about seen it all from opposing defenses.

The stellar freshman keeps figuring out how to slip past defenders and score or dish off to teammates.

Watkins scored 32 points and No. 10 Southern California used a dominant third quarter to pull away from Arizona and win 81-64 on Monday night for its fourth consecutive victory.

Watkins notched her ninth 30-point game of the season, breaking the school record of eight set by Cherie Nelson in 1988-89.

“JuJu is so spectacular, people are going to come with all different game plans,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “We showed she’s hard to stop from scoring, but we also have other players. We had contributions from everywhere.”

Kayla Padilla added 15 points on five 3-pointers for the Trojans. Rayah Marshall scored all of her 12 points over the last two quarters and had 10 rebounds.

USC (18-4, 8-4 Pac-12) moved back into a fourth-place tie with ninth-ranked UCLA in league play.

Esmery Martinez scored 13 points to lead the Wildcats (12-12, 4-8). She fouled out and had to be helped off the floor with 4:11 left in the game after getting hurt.

Watkins was just 9 of 23 from the floor, but made all of her 12 free throws in a rare national television appearance for the guard who is the nation’s second-leading scorer at 27.5 points per game. She also had seven rebounds and four assists in a game-high 38 minutes.

“To be able to play on this platform gave us a lot of added energy,” Watkins said. “My teammates have trust in me which gives me a lot of confidence. I keep reminding myself to just play my game and it will take me very far.”

Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller jokingly jumped into actor Will Ferrell’s lap during a timeout. Ferrell and rapper Fabolous visited the USC locker room after the game.

“I love Will Ferrell. He’s one of the funniest people alive,” Watkins said. “For him to know our names and how we’re doing is insane.”

Watkins scored nine points in the third when the Trojans outscored the Wildcats 23-11 to take a 60-44 lead after leading by two early in the period.

The Trojans were outrebounded 17-11 by the league’s worst rebounding team in the first two quarters before asserting themselves after halftime. They finished with a 34-29 edge on the boards. USC committed 19 turnovers to 15 for the Wildcats.

“In the first half they were the more aggressive team, so we had to figure it out at halftime and we did,” Gottlieb said. “We got more to ourselves in the second half and were tougher in the second half.”

The Wildcats led by five in the second quarter before USC hit four consecutive 3-pointers, including two by Padilla, to go into the break leading 37-33.

Both teams shot poorly in the first quarter, combining to go 8 of 30. Watkins was 1 of 6 from the floor and missed both of her 3-point attempts.

“We were getting good shots in the first quarter, the ball just didn’t go in,” Padilla said. “The message was to continue to shoot. We knew they were eventually going to go in.”


Arizona: The Wildcats kept it close over the first two quarters and led by five in the second, but their shooting fell off in the second half. They owned a 34-26 edge in the paint.

USC: The Trojans have a tough trip coming up this week, with games at Oregon and at No. 11 Oregon State.


Arizona: Hosts Washington State on Friday.

USC: Visits Oregon on Friday.


AP women’s college basketball: and

Article Topic Follows: AP California

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