JuJu Watkins leads USC to exciting double-OT win over UCLA in Pac-12 tournament

With 11.2 seconds remaining, JuJu Watkins glanced over her shoulder and locked eyes with her mother and father sitting in the front row at MGM Grand Garden Arena. She smiled.

The star freshman scored 33 points and pulled down 10 rebounds as second-seeded USC survived in double overtime against third-seeded rival UCLA 80-70 in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. The Trojans will play No. 1 seed Stanford in the final Sunday at 2 p.m., hoping to win their first conference tournament title since 2014.

Watkins fought through an early ankle injury she sustained in the opening minute and aggravated in the first minute of the first overtime. She still operated USC’s offense, handling the ball in high-stress situations in the second overtime. With USC up by three, she drew the entire defense in the lane then calmly curled a pass around a double team to Rayah Marshall for an easy layup and decisive six-point lead with 1:47 remaining. It was Watkins’ only assist.

Marshall finished with seven points and 11 rebounds. Kaitlin Davis had 16 rebounds, none bigger than the offensive board after a missed Watkins free throw that led to the tying three-pointer from McKenzie Forbes in the first overtime.

Forbes had missed her last 10 shots from the field before Davis shoveled the ball to Kayla Padilla, who whipped a pass to Forbes. The Harvard transfer calmly stepped into a three to tie the score 67-67 with 50 seconds left in the first extra period.

UCLA had chances to win at the end of regulation and the first overtime, getting stops on defense and getting a rebound and timeout with less than two seconds left. Both times, the Bruins failed to get off a shot, instead just dribbling out the clock.

Charisma Osborne led the Bruins with 21 points. Lauren Betts had 17 points and 18 rebounds as UCLA battled back from a 16-point first-quarter deficit.

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