April 24, 2024

In a sold-out Pauley Pavilion, with blue-clad fans stretching up to the last row in the rafters, UCLA ascended to cloud nine.

The No. 2 Bruins won their ninth straight against rival No. 6 USC on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, surviving 71-64 despite a 27-point outburst from USC star freshman JuJu Watkins in front of UCLA’s first sellout in the women’s basketball program history.

Watkins fought through UCLA’s physical defense on seven-of-24 shooting with 11 rebounds and two assists. Grad transfer McKenzie Forbes, who poured in a career-high 35 points last week against Long Beach State, scored 23 points.

USC's JuJu Watkins drives on UCLA's Lina Sontag during the first half Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

USC’s JuJu Watkins drives on UCLA’s Lina Sontag during the first half Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

But UCLA’s depth overcame USC’s star power with four double-digit scorers, led by 21 points from Londynn Jones, who hit five of eight three-pointers. Lauren Betts scored 15 points and Kiki Rice had 12. After Forbes, no USC player scored more than Rayah Marshall’s six points and 13 rebounds.

Fans lined up outside Pauley Pavilion hours before the first rivalry matchup of top-10 teams since 1981. They overflowed off Bruin Walk into the nearby parking lot as they waited for doors to open. UCLA alumni Russell Westbrook and Baron Davis were among those sitting in the two rows of courtside seats.

Even among the sea of blue UCLA shirts and jerseys, the excitement for Watkins was obvious with fans sporting her red No. 12 jersey.

Watkins, the top-ranked recruit in her class, has grabbed the basketball world’s attention and, even in a talented freshman group, is proving to be in a class of her own. When ESPN ranked its top 25 women’s college basketball players last week, Watkins was the top-ranked underclassmen, checking in at No. 5. UCLA, which battled to an undefeated nonconference record despite difficult road games at Ohio State and Arkansas and a neutral game against Connecticut, had its top-ranked player Betts at No. 12.

“Very incomplete list,” UCLA coach Cori Close wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “I will let our games do the talking!”

USC's JuJu Watkins fights for the ball during a loss to UCLA on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

USC’s JuJu Watkins fights for the ball during a loss to UCLA on Saturday at Pauley Pavilion.

(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Rice was the only other UCLA player included, at No. 23. Fifth-year guard Charisma Osborne, who could have been a first-round WNBA draft pick last year, didn’t make the cut.

Osborne made her case by playing suffocating defense against Watkins. Although she scored just 10 points, the Windward alumna led the Bruins with six assists and three steals.

Rice, who was limited to just two points in the first half because of foul trouble, made an immediate impact in the second half as she scored UCLA’s first eight points, spurring the Bruins to a 12-2 run. But as the Bruins threatened to pull away, USC finished the third quarter with a 7-2 run, and kept the Bruins scoreless for almost four minutes to start the fourth.

Forbes scored USC’s first five points of the fourth, pulling the Trojans to within two with 7:24 remaining. UCLA missed eight consecutive layups to begin the quarter, with point-blank shots dribbling off the rim.

It was the long ball that broke through for the Bruins. Jones hit two in the fourth, including one that put the Bruins up by seven with 4:08 to go.

The Riverside native with more than a dozen friends and family in attendance smirked and shook her head nonchalantly toward the crowd.

56
40
93
59
00
25
56
55
62
18
34
92
64
11
23
65
23
87
71
23
08
45
70
45
57
16
21
43
78
97
88
50
90
62
52
61
46
90
46
87
55
72
50
18
32
72
15
05
65
02
63
53
66
97
92
42
34
43
62
81
10
29
70
97
46
90
92
41
01
71
38
59
31
56
07
77
56
87
88
16
08
61
45
05
73
42
84
28
19
71
35
89
40
72
54
14
91
46
95
94
96
96
69
33
11
39
64
90
40
27
33
68
38
01
96
52
16
28
93
19
84
64
31
01
09
96
45
66
80
15
32
87
51
58
45
84
68
27
10
47
88
00
83
59
79
10
94
63
09
32
88
96
56
75
93
50
93
58
26
93
58
90
43
21
91
74
42
76
26
88
94
05
89
47
90
54
52
66
85
80
02
86
52
60
64
43
05
85
59
36
07
73
85
92
89
85
47
35
22
12
24
58
61
49
19
39
06
81
15
95
47
49
25
18
44
40
33
20
18
53
91
02
92
20
40
02
77
75
05
72
32
68
65
27
10
96
09
49
59
71
33
16
97
77
88
32
80
07
41
22
21
65
18
03
50
45
18
16
85
35
56
98
73
48
32
10
62
17
31
65
12
98
88
37
61
86
10
47
86
80
06
55
88
58
28
91
71
84
34
64
36
19
84
33
54
56
00
81
01
92
22
66
69
67
80
56
32
95
45
12
18
59
95
46
93
63
14
56
24
03
06
54
32
83
08
72
57
18
63
47
65
55
25
52
15
38
72
10
37
21
34
67
96
13
78
91
75
74
46
23
26
07
80
38
46
34
88
41
85
58
24
19
99
80
50
86
92
92
70
96
67
03
93
37
72
21
72
34
62
56
79
06
49
05
50
66
84
56
22
95
45
56
35
88
65
95
36
28
47
55
37
26
85
82
28
50
28
34
39
94
46
56
91
97
73
62
88
87
88
75
37
00
70
48
98
43
23
28
27
74
82
56
52
48
01
66
45
39
24
10
55
00
66
56
47
70
90
20
47
95
08
53
52
63
16
47
94
25
18
65
03
53
97
85
88
66
56
42
98
07
00
19
02
87
24
79
12
76
93
46
98
10
84
91
36
72
96
14
23
00
69
28
18
34
19
80
30
53
03
63
25
55
82
24
69
96
95
94
56
40
19
12
23
48
94
14
19
20
81
51
02
53
35
30
77
54
44
05
33
36
84
97
83
88
78
86
19
85
89
19
99
23
33
01
18
64
59
05
51
88
36
93
30
55
89
45
95
65
71
14
20
15
33
09
18
15
33
95
76
83
84
08
05
40
19
43
27
73
41
99
84
15
11
06
04
78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *