JuJu Watkins scores 27 points and No. 6 USC women rout UC Riverside 85-53

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — JuJu Watkins' favorite player has been LeBron James from way back. The NBA's career scoring leader stuck around to watch her put on a show.

Watkins scored 27 points in 28 minutes and No. 6 Southern California routed UC Riverside 85-53 on Sunday night to remain undefeated at home.

The women salvaged the day for USC after the men’s team lost to Long Beach State in overtime in Bronny James ′ college debut for the Trojans.

Some of the season-high crowd of 9,806 remained for the women’s game, including the elder James and his 9-year-old daughter Zhuri, who wore a USC jersey. They saw Watkins total 20 points before the third quarter was over.

“He’s the greatest right now so just to have him come off a dub in Vegas and stay for our game, that’s love,” Watkins said. “Just to see him continue to be great and strive for greatness is what I hope to do.”

Rayah Marshall added 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Trojans (8-0), who have blown out all five of their opponents at Galen Center this season.

“I really challenged the team, as I would say, to be juicy, have a lot of energy,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “Some of this crowd had never seen us before and we wanted to make sure that we represented ourselves.”

It was the first time in four games that Watkins didn't score at least 30 points, a feat she's accomplished five times already this season. She sat down for good with 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

The Highlanders (4-4) were led by Jordan Webster with 20 points, including five 3-pointers, and Matehya Bryant added 14 before fouling out.

Watkins scored USC's first five points of the fourth, extending their lead to 73-40. In the game, she hit four 3-pointers and had five assists, five steals, three rebounds and two blocked shots.

“I just want our offense to keep evolving,” Gottlieb said. “We're very hard to guard when that ball is moving.”

Riverside matched USC in scoring in the third with 20 points, but the Highlanders fell behind by 39 points in the period before trailing 68-36 going into the fourth.

The Trojans led 48-16 at the break, their largest lead of the first two quarters. Watkins scored 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting, hitting both of her 3-point attempts.

BIG PICTURE

UC Riverside: The Highlanders have challenged themselves early in the season, losing at SMU and UCLA and winning by 19 points at Dartmouth in a coast-to-coast trip. Their roster sports four transfers as well as four seniors.

USC: The Trojans continue to roll toward their showdown with No. 2 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion at the end of the month. They'll face two more Big West opponents, Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State, before then.

UP NEXT

UC Riverside: Hosts Santa Clara on Dec. 19 to open a three-game homestand.

USC: Hosts Cal State Fullerton on Dec. 18 to conclude four straight home games.

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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball