JuJu Watkins scores record 51 points for USC, helps No. 15 Trojans upset No. 4 Stanford 67-58

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STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — JuJu Watkins pulled up from long range and hit contested 3-pointers. She powered to the rim against Stanford’s two star posts to draw fouls and get to the line.

She outscored Stanford all by herself in the third quarter.

The sensational freshman scored a Southern California-record 51 points — the most in major NCAA women’s basketball this season — and the 15th-ranked Trojans upset No. 4 Stanford 67-58 on Friday night.

Watkins hit a key 3 with 3:10 remaining and four free throws over the final 18 seconds to break the previous USC scoring mark of 50 set by Cherie Nelson against California on March 11, 1989. Cheryl Miller held the freshman record of 39 points.

Not that Watkins is ready to consider herself among the program’s greats just yet.

“It’s crazy. I don’t really think about it too much,” she said. “I have a long way to go ‘til I will consider myself in that category with Cheryl and Lisa (Leslie) and the greats. I’m just honored, honestly, blessed to be in this environment, space and time in women’s basketball. I’m just soaking it all in.”

Watkins hit six 3-pointers and converted 17 of 19 free throws to help the Trojans (15-4, 5-4) send the Cardinal (19-3, 8-2) to their first home loss of the season.

The basketball-crazed home crowd even appreciated the performance, by an opponent no less.

“Every time I scored all I heard was ‘oooh,’” Watkins said. “It wasn’t even like a boo. I was like, ‘All right.’ It was crazy.”

Recruited by Stanford, Watkins had 25 by halftime and finished 14 for 26 from the floor. Her 3 with 5:52 left in the third put her at 37 and USC ahead 43-35 — giving her more points than Stanford. Watkins came in averaging 25.8 points, and Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer turned to freshman Courtney Ogden to try stopping her.

In the handshake line after the final buzzer, VanDerveer told USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb, “She was really good.”

“I said, ‘She sure was,’” Gottlieb said.

Watkins hardly slept this week after a loss to Washington, spending hours in the gym getting up shots. A security guard even called Gottlieb to make sure it was OK.

Stanford star Cameron Brink had 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocked shots — swatting six shots in the first half. Her layup with 5:36 left pulled Stanford within six and she converted two free throws at 4:02 that made it 54-50 before Watkins took over once more.

And what a thrilling way for these two teams to begin the final weekend of the L.A. schools coming to the Bay Area for Pac-12 play before their move to the Big Ten. Gottlieb returns to Berkeley on Sunday to face her former Cal program.

“I’ll never forget this,” Gottlieb said. “And again it’s meaningful because it’s our last time playing Stanford in the Pac-12.”

Kiki Iriafen contributed 16 points and nine rebounds for the Cardinal, who lost for the first time in five games since a 71-59 defeat at Colorado on Jan. 14.

McKenzie Forbes added 12 points for USC, which had lost three of four since beating UCLA on Jan. 14.

USC missed six straight shots and had a scoring drought of 4:31 before Watkins’ late 3 that was reviewed and stood. The Trojans went on a 6-0 run late in the third as Stanford looked rushed during a 1-for-8 shooting stretch.

“I think they were out of sorts a little bit because of what JuJu was doing,” Gottlieb said.

Both teams endured long scoring droughts.

USC went 5:44 between baskets in the first quarter — missing nine straight shots during a 1-for-11 stretch before Watkins connected on a jumper with 2:14 left in the opening period.

Watkins got on a roll from there, scoring 25 of her team’s first 31 points and shooting 9 for 13 after starting 1 for 5.

“She’s an incredibly talented player. If she’s not shooting well then it might be a different story. But she got going,” VanDerveer said. “We tried a lot of different people guarding her, we tried some different things against her. We fouled her too much, too, she had 19 free throws. We didn’t do the job we needed to do.”

BIG PICTURE

USC: Watkins outscored Stanford herself in the third quarter 15-11. … The Trojans had lost the previous 19 meetings on Stanford’s home floor in Maples Pavilion dating to a 62-59 victory on March 1, 2001.

Stanford: Since 2000, the most points one player scored against Stanford was Kelsey Plum’s 44 for Washington on Jan. 29, 2017. However, Stanford rallied back from 18 points to win 72-68 in Seattle. … This marked only the third time Stanford faced a ranked USC team since 1995-96, and first time with the Trojans in the top 15 since Stanford’s 80-50 home win against No. 6 USC on Feb. 24, 1994.

UP NEXT

USC: At California on Sunday.

Stanford: Hosts No. 7 UCLA on Sunday.

___ 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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