Top-Seeded USC Women’s Basketball Punches Ticket To Sweet Sixteen

LOS ANGELES, CALIF. — The top-seeded USC women’s basketball team exerted its defensive power in the first and fourth quarters and held No. 8 seed Kansas to a season-low 55 points as the Trojans punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 30 years with a 73-55 win over the Jayhawks tonight at Galen Center. In front of a crowd of 8,941, USC’s JuJu Watkins recorded a double-double while McKenzie Forbes landed six of USC’s season-high 13 3-pointers on the night. USC now carries a 28-5 overall record on to Portland, Ore., where the Trojans will face No. 5 seed Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Trojans never trailed, but did have to fend off the Jayhawks when they closed to within one point late in the third quarter. USC responded with a 10-0 run that stretched into the fourth to create space, and the Trojans held Kansas to just nine points in the final frame while pouring out 20 of their own to press on to victory. 

USC rode a wave of eight first-half 3-pointers to lead things 33-24 by halftime. The Trojans never trailed in those first 20 minutes, also benefiting from 16 points off of 12 Jayhawk turnovers. USC was shooting better from 3-point range (42.1 percent) than from the floor overall (35.3 percent) in the first half, while Kansas was a 34.6 percent overall and had landed one 3-pointer. The Jayhawks were winning the battle of the boards by the break, ahead 23-16. By the final buzzer, Kansas was still ahead on the rebounding front with a 40-39 lead, but USC had upped its offense to finish out the game at 37.3 percent, with 13 threes landed in the end. Kansas finished at 35.7 percent overall, and had committed 18 turnovers that USC converted into 25 points.

Watkins provided USC’s first and last points of the night, finishing up with a game-high 28 points along with 11 rebounds to tally her eighth double-double. Forbes finished with 20 points for the Trojans, while Clarice Akunwafo served up a booming six blocks on the defensive end. Kansas received 22 points from S’Mya Nichols and a double-double from Taiyanna Jackson with 10 points and 18 rebounds.

Watkins provided USC’s first seven points of the night, opening up things with a 3-pointer for the Trojan cause. Kansas got on the board with a pair of free throws at 7:58 and hit its first score from the floor son after, but Watkins had USC ahead 7-4 not 15 seconds later. Rayah Marshall slipped in a score as well, and McKenzie Forbes drilled a three after a Watkins steal, lifting USC ahead 12-5. Kansas would close to within three at 12-9, prompting the Trojans to dial up the defense. Clarice Akunwafo issued a block and later nabbed a steal, sending USC on the attack. Marshall scored next, and after forcing a Jayhawk shot clock violation, Kayla Padilla drained USC’s third 3-pointer of the frame to make it a 17-9 USC lead after 10 minutes of action. USC continued its momentum and made that 5-0 run into a 12-0 surge thanks in part to second-quarter threes from Forbes and Watkins to go up 24-9. The Jayhawks landed their first 3-pointer of the night with 4:43 on the clock, making it 27-17. Forbes would wrap two more threes around a bucket by Kansas, and USC was up 33-19 with 2:05 to go in the half, although the Jayhawks scored the final five points to make it a 33-24 halftime margin.

It was a shootout in the third as the teams traded scores for the first four minutes. Kansas broke the trend with a 6-0 rally to cut the scoreline to 43-37 at 5:15, and a 9-0 Kansas push followed Forbes’ sixth 3-pointer to make it a one-point game with 1:20 to go in the frame. Watkins coolly drained a 3-pointer 19 ticks later, then hit a pair of free throws to tug the Trojans ahead 52-46 in the final minute. Akunwafo had the last word of the quarter, getting to the line and sinking one to make it a 6-0 USC response for a 53-46 Trojan lead entering the fourth. USC got some tough work down low from Akunwafo to help spark the Trojans in the fourth. Her fifth block of the night helped send USC the other way, with Kaitlyn Davis delivering her first points with a score in the paint to get USC out ahead 62-48 at 6:12 as USC outscored the Jayhawks 9-2 in those first four minutes. 


No. 1 seed USC faces No. 5 seed Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday (March 30) in Portland, Ore.. 

NOTABLE:– USC is now making its 11th trip to the Sweet Sixteen and first since 1994 season

– USC is now 21-0 when scoring over 70 points in a game, and 15-0 when holding an opponent to under 60 points.

– USC tied its season-high of 3-pointers made with 13 tonight.

– GS McKenzie Forbes has hit at least one 3-pointer in 30 games this season.

– With six 3-pointers made tonight, Forbes tied her career high..

– With nine rebounds, Akunwafo beat her season high. 

– With 28 points and 11 rebounds FR JuJu Watkins recorded her eighth double-double of the season. 

– With six free-throws made tonight, Watkins is now USC’s record holder in free-throws made in a single season with 261. 

– With three 3-pointers today, GS Kayla Padilla has now hit at least three 3-pointers in 12 games this season

– Now 28-5 overall, USC has recorded its most wins since going 31-5 in 1985-86 under head coach Linda Sharp.

– This win marks Lindsay Gotttlieb’s second trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a head coach (Last appearance: 2013 season with California)

– USC held Kansas to a season-low 55 points. 


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