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USC shocks Stanford to seize first Pac-12 match title in a decade

No. 5 USC Trojans defeat No.2 Stanford Cardinal 74-61, incomes their second and closing Pac-12 championship.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MARCH 10: The USC Trojans pose for the media after defeating the Stanford Cardinal 74-61 within the championship recreation of the Pac-12 Convention girls’s basketball match at MGM Grand Backyard Area on March 10, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Picture by Candice Ward/Getty Photos)

What a becoming farewell to the Pac-12 Championship.

Beneath head coach Lindsay Gottlieb, the USC Trojans secured the Pac-12 Championship, marking their first convention victory in ten years. Regardless of Stanford being the favored workforce, USC took an early lead and maintained their momentum all through. Demonstrating their strongest win share for the reason that 1993-1994 season, the Trojans have constantly impressed with their bodily prowess all through the season. It has been an actual honor to look at them this season.

All of it started with a three-pointer sunk by Senior guard McKenzie Forbes. As a first-year switch from Harvard College, and previously Cal, Forbes scored a game-high 26 factors, making 11 out of 21 discipline targets and hitting 4 out of 8 three-point makes an attempt. Moreover, she grabbed 5 rebounds, two of which had been on the offensive finish, and contributed two assists together with three steals.

McKenzie Forbes was an unstoppable pressure

On Dec. 21, the senior scored a career-high 36 factors towards Lengthy Seashore State, and got here up immense in probably the most unforgettable second, the Pac-12 championship.

Clearly emotional after the sport, Forbes was really unstoppable throughout each ends of the court docket. Steals and pull up threes, the senior was locked in. Second on the roster in scoring with 13.1 factors per recreation, Forbes was the glue that secured USC their closing ever Pac-12 championship. And along with her stellar recreation play, the California native was named the convention MVP.

Surrounded by reporters, Forbes gave an tearful interview with ESPN’s Holly Rowe on the court docket. In her put up recreation speech, the senior shed tears, but was visibly keen about her workforce’s victory.

“I simply love my teammates man,” Forbes instructed Rowe by way of ESPN. “We deserve this, we labored so exhausting. We locked in on the sport plan and no one believed we might win this and we did it.”

USC impressed with out their largest star

What stands out about this victory is that USC managed to defeat the second-ranked workforce within the nation, regardless of freshman standout JuJu Watkins having an off evening. With a capturing efficiency of simply 2-15 from the ground, Watkins ended the sport with a season-low 9 factors, together with one block, one help, and three rebounds in 39 minutes of play. Whereas this efficiency is uncharacteristic for the freshman, it underscores USC’s capability to stay a robust pressure, even when key gamers face challenges.

Because of this, the Trojans had simply two bench gamers, Clarice Akunwafo and Kayla Williams, who collectively scored 10 factors. Kayla Padilla, who beforehand transferred from Penn State, scored 13 factors with a 50 % capturing accuracy from past the arc. In the meantime, junior middle Rayah Marshall led the sport with 18 rebounds and in addition contributed 10 factors. Notably, Marshall secured 5 of her rebounds on the offensive finish.

And for USC, it isn’t about who scores probably the most collective factors. Actually a workforce effort, the USC Trojans had been by no means favored to win the convention title.

“We love basketball, and that is the very best half about this workforce,” Forbes instructed ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “Nobody cares who will get a shine. Nobody cares who scores 50, who scores zero. Now we have individuals who play their position, who simply go on the market and rebound. It does not matter, we simply wish to win.”

USC dominated on the rebounds

Talking of rebounds, appearing as a robust pressure on the glass was the distinction maker for the USC. By out rebounding Stanford 48-28, there have been a plethora of second likelihood alternatives, together with 21 factors off turnovers. There’s outplaying a workforce on the glass, after which there’s fully dominating a workforce on the rebounds. In USC’s case, it was a show of absolute masterclass on the rebounds.

What an unbelievable freshman season it has been for Watkins. The subsequent generational expertise, she led the Trojans with 27 factors per recreation, and broke a number of data in her first season. Actually, the Sierra Canyon product is now probably the most scoring freshman in NCAA girls’s basketball historical past. Whereas Caitlin Clark completed with 799 factors following her freshman yr, Watkins is at 801.

An integral a part of the Trojans success this season, Watkins poured in 33 factors, 10 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals within the Pac-12 semifinal towards no. 7 UCLA. Making historical past all season lengthy, the guard broke Cheryl Miller’s file for probably the most 30-point video games in a season for the USC Trojans.

USC defeated Stanford twice this yr

Regardless of being ranked No. 1 within the Pac-12 this season, the Cardinal suffered solely 5 losses, one in all which was towards USC on Feb. 2, with a closing rating of 67-58. In a outstanding show, JuJu Watkins made historical past by changing into the primary Division 1 freshman to attain 50 factors in a recreation since Elena Delle Donne in 2010. With a formidable 51 factors, she propelled the Trojans to their first victory at Maples Pavilion, the Cardinal’s house court docket, in 24 years.

Whereas USC has lengthy demonstrated their capability to compete with Stanford and head coach Tara VanDerveer, it is Stanford that has largely dominated the Pac-12, clinching 5 convention titles since 2015. Regardless of USC’s latest championship win, it marks a big shift within the panorama of one in all girls’s basketball’s best conferences. With VanDerveer’s affect shaping the trajectory of ladies’s hoops, this victory undoubtedly evokes a spread of feelings. Two notable sentiments embody disappointment and disappointment.

With 12 groups a part of the Pac-12, USC will transfer to the Large Ten, together with UCLA subsequent season. In the meantime, whereas Arizona, Utah, amongst others, will be part of the Large 12. Stanford, together with Cal, will be part of the ACC. The irony on this all? The Pac-12 is among the strongest conferences in girls’s basketball historical past, together with six ranked groups. Cameron Brink, JuJu Watkins, Alissa Pili, the listing goes on. The quantity of expertise within the Pac-12 is gigantic, and it’ll indefinitely be missed.

In a bittersweet day, the USC Trojans will transfer onto the NCAA match, the place they may obtain an opportunity to compete for a Nationwide Championship title.

Associated article: Click on right here

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content material Creator and Social Media Supervisor for Ballislife Bets. She has a give attention to the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane at the moment resides in Connecticut/NYC space along with her Cat and Canine. SJ has her undergraduate diploma from the College of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in enterprise administration.



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