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JuJu Watkins' double-double leads top-seeded USC over Kansas 73-55 for trip to women's Sweet 16


LOS ANGELES (AP) — JuJu Watkins had 28 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and top-seeded Southern California led all the way in defeating Kansas 73-55 on Monday night to reach the Sweet 16 of the women's NCAA Tournament.

McKenzie Forbes hit a career-high six 3-pointers and scored 20 points for the Trojans (28-5), who will face fifth-seeded Baylor (26-7) in the Portland Region 3 in Oregon on Saturday.

USC last went this deep when it reached the Elite Eight in 1994, 10 years after the school won the second of its back-to-back national championships.

Freshman S’Mya Nichols scored 22 points to lead the Jayhawks (20-13). Taiyanna Jackson had 10 points and 18 rebounds. Kansas fell to 0-6 all-time when facing a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

After Kansas got within one in the third, the Trojans took over with a 17-2 run that spanned the end of the third and start of the fourth. Watkins had nine points and Kayla Padilla hit a 3-pointer in the spurt that extended USC's lead to 64-48.

USC's Clarice Akunwafo, who at 6-foot-6 equaled Jackson's height, disrupted the Kansas center by blocking shots and even did a little scoring down the stretch.

The Jayhawks outscored USC 22-20 in the third, scoring nine in a row to close to 47-46. Watkins closed the quarter by hitting a 3-pointer and making a pair of free throws before picking up her third foul. Forbes stole the ball and Akunwafo got fouled, making 1 of 2 to keep the Trojans ahead 53-46.

Kansas rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to force overtime against Michigan in the first round but was completely taken out of it in the fourth by the Trojans.

Watkins scored the Trojans' first seven points with the crowd chanting “USC! USC!” They ran off 12 straight points over the end of the first and start of the second quarter, capped by Watkins' 3-pointer that extended USC's lead to 24-9.

The Trojans forced 12 Kansas turnovers that led to 16 points for them in the first half, which ended with USC ahead 33-24. The Jayhawks made just one 3-pointer in the half. They started the game shooting 3 of 14 from the floor.

Among the USC supporters were Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller, former NBA player John Wall, former USC quarterback Matt Leinert and football coach Lincoln Riley.


AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-womens-bracket/ and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness