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Watkins scores 31 points and No. 10 USC routs Arizona State 81-63 for 3rd straight win

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Southern California coach Lindsay Gottlieb used some pre-game inspiration from “Ted Lasso,” challenging the 10th-ranked Trojans to get out of their comfort zone.

It worked.

JuJu Watkins scored 25 of her 31 points over the final two quarters and the Trojans routed Arizona State 81-63 on Friday night.

Playing her first home game since scoring a career-high 51 points in an upset of Stanford last week, Watkins started slowly. She had just six points on 3 of 12 shooting at halftime, including two airballs in the first quarter.

She also finished with seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and made 8 of 9 free throws as the Trojans (17-4, 7-4 Pac-12) won their third in a row.

After being held to just nine points in the first quarter, Arizona State closed to 38-31 on Trayanna Crisp’s 3-pointer to open the third.

But the Trojans answered, going on a 12-2 run to extend their lead to 50-33. Watkins scored six and McKenzie Forbes had four, including a steal and layup. Forbes finished with 18 points.

“Our energy was really good,” Gottlieb said. “We established ourselves inside the paint.”

Watkins scored USC’s final five points of the third for a 59-45 lead in front of “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis. She put on a show, battling in the paint and snaking through defenders to score.

“I’m totally starstruck,” Gottlieb said. “I was excited to see him here tonight.”

Watkins and Forbes combined to score the Trojans’ first 13 points of the fourth for a 72-50 lead. USC stretched its lead to 81-56 on Watkins’ layup before she sat down for good after playing 37 minutes.

“We just found another gear,” Gottlieb said. “We know we have an interior athletic presence and talented bigs and we challenged them to assert themselves.”

The Sun Devils (10-13, 2-9) have dropped nine of 11 and remain mired in last place in the league. They were led by Jalyn Brown with 24 points. Crisp added 17. Crisp, Jaddan Simmons and Journey Thompson each had four fouls as ASU had just seven players.

The Trojans led by 19 in the second quarter when they got outscored 14-5 over the final minutes to go into halftime leading 38-28.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona State: The Sun Devils couldn’t keep up with the bigger Trojans and got outscored 46-30 in the paint.

USC: The Trojans’ defense forced 13 turnovers, had six blocked shots and outrebounded ASU 42-28, led by Rayah Marshall with 16 boards. She added 13 points. “I came out in the first quarter and it was tough to get my feel for offense,” Marshall said. “My teammates told me to keep shooting the ball.”

UP NEXT

Arizona State visits No. 9 UCLA on Sunday.

USC hosts Arizona on Monday.

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

Article Topic Follows: ap-california-news

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