Los Angeles, CA- In a nail-biter, the No. 9 USC Trojans (11-1) secured a hard-fought victory, overcoming the previously undefeated Oregon State Beavers (12-1) with a final score of 56-54, handing them their first loss of the season.
Freshman guard Juju Watkins carried the load offensively for the Trojans scoring 28 points on 11 for 33 shooting and set a new career high in blocks with 5.
Watkins is the second leading scorer in the nation averaging 27.0 points per game but stepped her defense in critical moments for the Women of Troy.
“Just making sure I’m trying to impact the game in other ways with the blocks,” Watkins said. “I wouldn’t consider myself an all offensive player, I think that when it comes down to it I’m able to make plays defensively and do whatever I need to do to come out with the dub for the team.”
It wasn’t a pretty win for the Trojans but a win is a win. Coach Gottlieb described the victory as a “gritty win” which she accredited the Beavers for imposing their will on the game and making it feel more like an Oregon State game versus a USC game.
Watkins accounted for USC’s initial nine points, yet the Beavers outplayed the Trojans in the early stages, establishing a 28-25 halftime lead for Oregon State. USC struggled with a 29.4% shooting percentage in the first half. OSU shot 33.3 percent from the field in the first half and nailed 5 of 17 attempts from deep.
USC concluded the third quarter with an impressive 7-0 run, all courtesy of JuJu Watkins, propelling them to their first lead of the night with a 43-42 advantage as they entered the fourth quarter.
Watkins went out for about four minutes early in the fourth due to cramping issues. USC held their largest lead of the night at 45-42.
Kayla Padilla made two of her four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, none bigger than the three-pointer she made with 2:15 left on the clock to give USC a 56-51 point lead. Padilla finished the game with 14 points for the Trojans.
“I think one of the best parts of our team is everyone who steps onto the floor is a threat both offensively and defensively,” said Padilla. “So when someone is struggling, the next person steps up and that person happened to be me in terms of a shooting tonight.”
OSU narrowed the Trojans’ lead down to two after converting a three-point play with 1:34 to go setting up a dramatic finish at the Galen Center.
Raegan Beers had an opportunity to force overtime in the final seconds for the Beavers but was blocked by Rayah Marshall. USC’s defense successfully thwarted the Beavers’ efforts, ultimately securing a hard-fought 56-54 comeback victory.
Talia von Oelhoffen led Oregon State in scoring with 18 points on 7-15 shooting.
USC prepares to host the Oregon Ducks in a noon matchup on Sunday at Galen Center.