LOS ANGELES — For the first 20 minutes, it looked like USC Women’s Basketball might be in trouble. The No. 10 Trojans trailed for much of the first half, and found themselves up by just four at halftime against a 12-11 Arizona team.
But whatever head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said in the locker room at the break clearly resonated with the team, as the Women of Troy came out of halftime looking like a completely different team. USC outscored Arizona 23-11 in the third quarter and never looked back in fourth, cruising to an 81-64 victory over the Wildcats.
“We were us,” head coach Lindsay Gotlieb said of her team’s second half performance. “I didn’t see anything that I don’t know we’re capable of in the second half. I just know we need to find that juice.”
It was another strong performance from superstar freshman guard Juju Watkins, who led the way with 32 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. The x-factor for the Trojans, however, was senior guard Kayla Padilla, who was red hot from behind the three-point line. Padilla scored all 15 of her points from behind the arc, going 5-for-8 on three-point shooting while also adding seven assists. Junior center Rayah Marshall added 12 points and 10 rebounds for her tenth double-double of the season.
For Arizona, redshirt senior forward Esmery Martinez and freshman guard Skylar Jones each finished with 13 points, while fellow freshman guard Jada Williams added 10. Martinez also added seven rebounds and three assists, while Jones had six rebounds and three steals.
“We knew Arizona” Gottlieb said of the Wildcats. “I said throw their record out, this team can beat anyone. They’re really tough. They obviously are down in numbers, but they play their tails off.”
The victory was USC’s 18th of the season. However, the game—which aired on ESPN2—was just the Trojans’ second national television appearance of the season, something which was not lost on the players.
“We’re blessed to be able to have this platform,” Watkins said. “We bring the same kind of mindset every game, televised or not. But I think that to be able to play a game on this platform gave us a lot of added energy.”
The game also featured an appearance from several notable celebrities, including actor and USC alum Will Ferrell, who visited the team in the locker room following the victory.
“I love Will Ferrell,” Watkins said. “He’s like one of the funniest people alive.”
“To meet him and have him actually come to a game, and know our names . . . it was insane.”
After a successful two-game homestand, USC will travel up north to visit Oregon and Oregon State next weekend. The Women of Troy will visit the Ducks on Friday night at 7 p.m. PST, before making the drive up I-5 to take on the Beavers Sunday at noon.