STANFORD, Calif. — Freshman JuJu Watkins scored a USC-record 51 points, the most in 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.»
JUJU WATKINS MASTERCLASS. pic.twitter.com/xH5seAFPgc
— USC Women’s Basketball (@USCWBB) February 3, 2024
Watkins hit six 3-pointers 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.»
Watkins delivered the first 50-point game by a Division-I player this season and had the second-most points in a game in Pac-12 history, trailing only former Washington star Kelsey Plum’s 57 against Utah in 2017.
With Watkins dominating, the Trojans had only four players score a point Friday night. She scored 76% of USC’s points, the highest percentage of a team’s points by a player in the past 25 seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
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 had total. Watkins came in averaging 25.8 points. Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer turned to freshman Courtney Ogden to try and stop her.
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.
It was 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. USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb returns to Berkeley on Sunday to face her former Cal program.
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 and out of sorts during a 1-for-8 shooting stretch.
Both teams endured long scoring droughts.
USC went 5 minutes, 44 seconds 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.
Stanford missed its final five shots of the first half spanning the closing 4 minutes and committed three turnovers for a 31-all tie at intermission as USC finished on a 6-0 burst.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.