February 23, 2024

The crowd gasped as a Washington State defender tumbled to the floor. JuJu Watkins tends to have that effect on fans.

One vicious crossover at a time, Watkins helped No. 11 USC bounce back from a road sweep at Colorado and Utah with a 70-62 win over Washington State at Galen Center on Friday. Watkins had 29 points with seven rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Grad transfer McKenzie Forbes notched 22 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Trojans (14-3, 4-3 Pac-12) improved to 11-0 at home, part of 15 consecutive home victories dating back to last season.

Watkins made it look almost effortless. She kept a blank expression as she hit an open three after sending Washington State’s Jenna Villa to the floor with a smooth crossover. In transition, she faked to the left before crossing over opponents in the lane for easy layups. Watkins, with 21 points in the first half, was only four points behind the Cougars’ 25-point total at the break.

Even when Watkins had a shot blocked, she added to her highlight reel, shoveling the loose ball behind her back to teammate Kaitlyn Davis, who was cutting through the lane for a layup with four seconds remaining in the first half. It capped a 7-0 USC run heading into the locker room.

Fans sitting courtside stood and waved their hands in disbelief after Watkins danced with a defender and drained a midrange baseline jumper as the first quarter expired. Even Watkins herself seemed impressed by the play. She hit Cristiano Ronaldo’s signature “Siuu” celebration on the way to the USC huddle.

The freshman sensation has been the main draw for USC, attracting record-setting crowds to Galen Center. After a program-best 10,657 in a sold-out Galen Center for a rivalry matchup against UCLA on Jan. 14, USC entered Friday’s game with an average attendance of 3,462, more than three times last year’s average of 1,037. USC hasn’t averaged even 2,000 fans a game this millennium.

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