Rising Star: Freshman JuJu Watkins Stuns with 51-Point Performance

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JuJu Watkins

JuJu Watkins, a California Native, is the former 2023 McDonald's All-American Most Valuable Player. Watkins now owns the record for the most points scored in a game by a USC Trojan.

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JuJu Watkins delivered a record breaking historical performance

USC Trojans Freshman sensation JuJu Watkins is a walking bucket, and no one was stopping her Friday night.

At Maples Pavilion, the rookie exploded for 51 points and led USC to just their second road win on the season. Delivering a historic performance, the guard grabbed 11 boards, and finished with a double-double. No. 12 became the first player to ever score 51 points in a game for the Trojans. Cherie Nelson previously held the record for the most points in a game with 50 in 1989.

Over the weekend, No. 15 USC Trojans (15-4) took down No. 4 Stanford in a classic Pac-12 showdown. 19-3 on the season, and 8-2 in the conference, Stanford retains the slight lead over Colorado. With the victory, USC ranks 6th in the conference, behind Utah.

A 2-1 record against the Cardinal since early 2023, the Trojans recorded their first win against Stanford on the road since the 2000-2001 season.

In regards to her historical performance, Watkins doesn't quite put herself in the same category as USC legends Lisa Leslie and Cheryl Miller just yet. Even after this jaw dropping performance, she's focused on getting back in the gym for their next matchup against California. That's mamba mentality right there.

"Its crazy, " Watkins said after breaking the Trojans single game scoring record. "I don't really think about it too much. I have a long way to go till I will consider myself in that category with Cheryl [Miller], Lisa [Leslie] and the greats. I'm just honored, blessed to be in this environment, space and time in Women's Basketball. I'm just soaking it all in--I'm going to take it all in and then back to the gym." (USC Athletics).

She's been killing it in her rookie season

Now just making headlines, the rookie has been breaking records all season long. Just 18 years old, the freshman has seven games with 30+ points. That's the most since Nelson, who finished with eight during the 1988-1989 season.

Recording her fourth double-double of the season, Watkins is the first D1 NCAA freshman to score 50 points in a single game since Elena Delle Donne in 2010 (54).

While there's plenty of NCAA talent, Watkins is different. Leading USC in a new era of basketball, she continues to build on her Los Angeles legacy. From the way she conducts herself in interviews, to her jump shot release--the future is bright for Watkins.

Coming off a heartbreaking 62-59 loss against Washington, Watkins arguably had one of her worst shooting performances of the season. She finished with 19 points, on 8-27 (29.6 %) field goal shooting, and 2-7 (28.6 %) from deep. To be able to overcome that and adapt in this way speaks volumes.

"Her demeanor from the second that game ended against Washington until now is what sets her apart to me more than these numbers," said Trojans head coach Lindsay Gottlieb in the USC Athletics post game presser. "All week I said, this kid is different, she's special the way she takes coaching, the way she's a teammate, the way she holds herself accountable." (USC Athletics).

Watkins single handily defeated the 4th best team in the nation, and a top 5 ranked program. 51 points is impressive against any team, but against Tara VanDerveer and the Stanford Cardinal? You're talking about making headlines against the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history and one of the most pristine programs in NCAA history. That's special, and the basketball world is witnessing the evolution of the next generational talent.

RELATED: Tara VanDerveer is not the winningest coach in NCAA history.

Watkins was stellar on both sides of the ball

Making up 76 percent of the Trojans offense, Watkins scored 51 of their 67 total points. Shooting 14-26 (53.8 %) from the field, the rest of her team finished just 7-38 (18 %) from the floor.

What can't Watkins do on the court? A scoring machine, she was lights out from the three-point line and mid range, shooting 54.5 percent from deep. Excellent in transition, her shots were smooth, even when contested. With full confidence, Watkins pulled up often in double coverage, and utilized screens very well.

Her footwork, positioning, it was put on full display in the historic night. Not only that, but No. 12 was getting plenty of strong looks at the basket. Watkins finished 17-19 from the free-throw line. What transpired the other night is just the beginning.

Getting to the lines that frequently is significant. Over the last minute or so in the game, Watkins made five free-throws.

While the focus has been primarily on Watkins and the offense, USC was brilliant on the defensive end. Holding Cameron Brink and Kiki Iriafen to 10-32 (31.2 %) field goal shooting was crucial to the victory. Watkins alone had four steals, and nine defensive rebounds. The LA native even found herself drawing offensive charge calls on the defensive end. On the season, she's been brilliant defensively, averaging 2.7 steals and 1.6 blocks per game. Standing at 6 ft 2, her towering stature makes her one of the most prolific two-way players in the game.

In fact, USC held Stanford to a season-low 31.6 percent from the floor, which included a season low total 58 points scored.

She was a high school standout at Sierra Canyon

JuJu Watkins, a California native, was the no. 1 recruit out of Sierra Canyon in 2023. In her first year with the Trojans, she's been turning heads. Although she's only a freshman, the guard has always been an elite hooper, especially at the high school level. A recipient of the McDonald’s All-American award, Watkins dropped a 60 piece against Sherman Oaks Notre Dame on senior night.

Watkins joins the names amongst fellow freshman players who have had impactful first seasons with their respectful teams. Watkins joins MiLaysia Fulwiley of South Carolina, Hannah Hildago of Notre Dame, and Mikalyah Williams of LSU just to name a few. The freshman are officially taking over, and we are all here for it.

JuJu Watkins is a star in the making that's been overshadowed for quite some time. 18 games into her rookie season, she's averaging a second best 27.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 3.3 assists, on 36.1 percent three-point shooting. Keeping it classy as always, Watkins refuses to be compared to Caitlin Clark's greatness, and is making a name for herself.

USC will finish up their mini two-game road trip against California Sunday afternoon.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislife Bets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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