JuJu Watkins helps USC return to Elite Eight by beating Baylor

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As USC lined up for the opening tip of its Sweet 16 matchup against Baylor, a fan sitting two rows up from the court at Moda Center held up a plain white sign reading in black marker, “JUJU N ’EM.”

JuJu Watkins cracked a grin at the sight.

Yes, the freshman led the way with 30 points, six rebounds, four blocked shots and four assists, but she didn’t stand out alone in USC’s 74-70 win over No. 5-seeded Baylor in a Portland 3 Regional semifinal on Saturday.

McKenzie Forbes scored 14 points and Rayah Marshall had an 11-point, 16-rebound double-double to help propel the top-seeded Trojans to their first Elite Eight since 1994, where they will play No. 3 Connecticut or No. 7 Duke on Monday night.

Watkins made 12 of 13 free throws to help the Trojans (29-5) withstand Baylor’s late run that included a banked three-pointer from Sarah Andrews with 22.8 seconds remaining that cut USC’s lead to one.

When Forbes went to the bench at the end of the third quarter with her third foul, Baylor went on a 6-0 run to take a four-point lead into the fourth quarter.

The Harvard transfer didn’t waste any time making her presence felt in the fourth, blocking Bella Fontleroy’s shot on Baylor’s first possession. She whipped her fist through the air when Kayla Padilla scored an and-one layup. Forbes forced the Bears to call a timeout when she knocked down a three-pointer that put the Trojans up by two.

Walking to the USC huddle, Forbes locked eyes with her family in the crowd sitting behind USC’s bench and shouted “Let’s f— go!”

Andrews led Baylor with 17 points. Darianna Littlepage-Biggs had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

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