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JuJu Watkins scores 42 points in No. 7 USC’s 7th straight win, 87-81 over 11th-ranked Colorado

By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — JuJu Watkins was so busy trying to help No. 7 Southern California extend its winning streak, the freshman sensation didn’t realize she had set a couple more records.

Watkins scored 42 points in an 87-81 victory over 11th-ranked Colorado on Friday night for the Trojans’ seventh win in a row. She broke Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller’s school record for most 30-point games in a season with her 11th and it was the most points scored by a woman in a game at Galen Center.

“Wait, what about men’s?” Watkins asked.

She topped that, too, eclipsing the 35 points by USC’s Boogie Ellis set last season.

Watkins shot 10 of 19 from the floor, made all 18 of her free throws and hit four 3-pointers in her second-highest scoring game of the season. She had 51 points in a win at then-No. 4 Stanford on Feb. 2.

“That’s insane, honestly,” Watkins said. “A long way to go before I’m in that conversation. I’m just happy to be able to be a part of that Trojan legacy and just continue to evolve and grow the game and grow the culture here at SC.”

Watkins committed a season-worst 10 of USC’s 19 turnovers. She was assessed a flagrant foul in the third after a left arm to the face of Jaylyn Sherrod.

“It just comes with the energy and this being such an aggressive game and so intense, I think I was just a little crazy,” Watkins said. “It was just a great environment and I think that brings that out in me. I’m just glad I was able to chill out and get the dub.”

McKenzie Forbes added 24 points, making five 3-pointers, and seven assists for the Trojans (21-4, 11-4 Pac-12). Kayla Padilla had 12 points, making four of her five 3-pointers and USC improved to 14-1 at home.

The Trojans moved into a tie for second with No. 9 Oregon State in the Pac-12.

“It felt like a heavyweight prize fight on a Friday night and I don’t even know anything about boxing,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “I was proud of the way that we stayed together amidst any kind of adversity. Even when we were giving up some buckets I felt like we were locked in and together and could figure out a way to get stops.”

A joyous Forbes dribbled out the final seconds and then happily chest-bumped Miller on the sideline. After the game, Watkins shared hugs with Miller, NBA Hall of Famer Spencer Haywood and former NBA player Matt Barnes.

“It’s pretty amazing to see the city rally behind what’s going on here,” Forbes said.

Aaronette Vonleh scored 18 points before fouling out with 4:47 remaining and Quay Miller had 12 points for the Buffaloes (20-6, 10-5), who lost their third in a row.

The win avenged USC’s 63-59 loss at Colorado last month.

Forbes’ 3-pointer gave USC its largest lead of the game, 84-69 in the fourth.

Watkins was bloodied and had to change to a different jersey number in the fourth. Her teammates huddled around her to provide privacy.

After Watkins’ flagrant, the Buffs got two free throws and possession during an 11-0 run that gave them a 57-53 lead.

From there, Watkins, Kaitlyn Davis and Forbes combined to outscore the Buffs 14-6 and go into the fourth back in front, 67-61.

Watkins scored 22 points in the first half, when she had six turnovers. On one play, she stole the ball but slipped and fell and got called for traveling, one of several times she ended up on the floor.

The second quarter turned into a 3-point shootout. The Trojans hit seven, including six in a row. Padilla and Forbes made three each. The Buffs made five, including four in a row to go into halftime trailing 47-43.

BIG PICTURE

Colorado: The Buffs end the regular season at home against the Washington schools, both of which have sub.-500 league records. They opened the season with an upset of then-No. 1 LSU and are seeking to make their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.

USC: The Trojans travel to the Arizona schools — both with losing records — to end the regular season. They’re trying to lock up a top-four seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, which would earn them a first-round bye.

UP NEXT

Colorado: Visits No. 12 UCLA on Monday.

USC: Hosts No. 18 Utah on Sunday.

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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

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