JuJu Watkins scorches No. 4 Stanford with 51 points as No. 15 USC gets 67-58 road win

STANFORD, Calif. – It was the best of times for JuJu Watkins Friday night when the sensational USC freshman wrecked No. 15 Stanford (19-3, 8-2 Pac-12) offensively, scoring a program-record 51 points as the No. 4 Trojans (15-4, 5-4) took down the home team in front of a raucous crowd of 5,371 fans. The win marked USC’s first win at Maples Pavilion since 2001.

Ain’t No Stopping the JuJu

In phenom fashion, the first-year player scored the first points of the game and finished the first quarter in double digits with 12 points. She followed up each quarter in a similar fashion: 13 in the second, to have 25 at the half.

When Stanford looked like it slowed her down a bit with a flurry of defenses in the second half, Watkins retaliated in kind scoring 15 points in the third quarter and 11 in the last ten minutes.

Even more impressive, Watkins played through early foul troubles as she incurred two in the first period but didn’t foul again until the last quarter. Never mind the fouls, at night’s end, the No. 1 prep recruit ahead of the season racked up the following accolades by night’s end.

  • USC leader in scoring for a single game, passing USC greats Cherie Nelson (50) and Tina Thompson (49).
  • Number two in single-game scoring in the Pac-12, behind former Washington star Kelsey Plum (57).
  • The most points in a game this season
  • The first Pac-12 player to score more than 40 points in a game this season.

When asked about all these accolades, Watkins was humble: “I really don’t think about it.” She said it all hasn’t sunk in yet and that she is looking to prepare for her team’s contest at California on Sunday.

However, the winningest coach in NCAA history, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer put Watkins’ performance at the apex of freshman single-game outings.

“I think it goes right up there at the top.”

It was also a banner night for USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb who joined a select group of two coaches to best VanDerveer with two different teams. She won at Stanford when she was the head coach at California. The other coach to complete that feat is Colorado’s JR Payne who won with the Buffs and with Santa Clara on a cold night in November 2015.

“That’s a really cool honor,” said Gottlieb when asked about beating the Cardinal with the Bears and the Trojans.

More Defense, No Problem

There was nothing Stanford could do to stop Watkins even as the Cardinal rotated defenses which only hampered the freshman temporarily.

Stanford senior forward Cameron Brink did have some success, blocking some of Watkins’ shots in the paint. At one point in the third quarter, Watkins was outscoring the entire Stanford squad with 40 points while the Cardinal had 39.

In addition to her 51 points, Watkins also had 11 rebounds and four steals, a testament to her well-rounded game. USC guard/forward McKenzie Forbes was also in double figures with 12 points and five points. When Stanford did slow Watkins down for a few minutes, it was Forbes and junior center/forward Rayah Marshall who stepped up. Marshall corralled six crucial rebounds.

Brink, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week, had a near triple-double with 19 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks. Junior forward Kiki Iriafen scored 16 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Grad student guard Hannah Jump added ten points for the Cardinal.

Overall, USC held Stanford to a season-low 31.6 percent from the floor and a season-low 58 points.

VanDerveer minced no words in critiquing her team’s performance while also expressing optimism.

“It’s early enough in the season that our team can learn and listen. And we can improve. We cannot expect to beat a really good team, taking the shots that we took turning the ball over the way we turned it over.”

She added a few minutes later: “I don’t think we have to lose to learn but I think it definitely gets everyone’s attention.”

The Cardinal turns attention to hosting NO. 7 UCLA on Sunday.

USC has now beaten three top-10 opponents this season. The last time the Trojans accomplished that feat was during the 1985-86 season.

Watkins Notes

  • The previous record for most points scored against Stanford was 44 by Plum in 2017 but Stanford won that contest in Seattle.
  • Recorded her fourth double-double of the season.
    Her 25 first-half points marked the most she’s scored in a half this season.
    Her six 3-pointers tied her career high.
  • The 17 free throws made was a career high.
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