LAS VEGAS (AP) — Freshman JuJu Watkins scored 32 points in her college debut, lifting No. 21 Southern California over No. 7 Ohio State 83-74 Monday in the opener for both teams.
“I’m lost for words right now. I’m still kind of processing everything,” Watkins said. “Whenever we get the chance to compete against a top 10 team, any team really, we’re ready, we prep the right way, we do what we need to do, and we get out on the court and we show the world what we can do.”
Watkins, among the highest-regarded incoming freshmen, finished 11 of 18 from the floor with six rebounds and five assists.
Watkins made her first college bucket a little more than a minute in and went on to score 16 points in the first half.
Rayah Marshall had 18 points and 17 rebounds for the Trojans while McKenzie Forbes scored 11 points.
“They’re just really consistent people. They’re consistent players,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “They don’t get easily rattled."
Jacy Sheldon led the Buckeyes with 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting, and Taylor Thierry scored 16.
After seeing their 19-point lead disappear when Ohio State outscored them 30-10 in the third quarter, the Trojans opened the fourth on a 13-4 run to seize control.
USC shot 12 of 18 in the second quarter and finished the first half making 18 of 35, including 4 of 11 from 3-point range.
After shooting 35.2% from the floor in the first quarter, the Buckeyes were 2 of 10 in the second quarter.
Marshall didn’t make it easy on the Buckeyes, as she had four steals in the second and converted two of them into breakaway buckets. The Trojans finished with 10 points off turnovers in the first half and outscored Ohio State 26-6 in the paint. USC also dominated the Buckeyes on the boards, outrebounding them 27-11.
“We didn’t come out with energy like we normally do and ready to go, and they did,” Sheldon said.
Las Vegas’ Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot more than a dozen times in April 2022, dressed for USC but did not play.
USC: The Trojans’ Ivy League transfer trio of Forbes (Harvard), Kayla Padilla (Penn) and Kaitlyn Davis (Columbia) made their presence felt in their USC debuts, too, combining for 23 points on 6-of-19 shooting.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes averaged 35.3 rebounds per game last season and ranked 251st in the nation with a -2.2 rebounding margin. Monday they were outrebounded 43-28 by the Trojans.
USC: Hosts Florida Gulf Coast on Friday
Ohio State: Hosts IUPUI 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