USC guard JuJu Watkins (12) scored 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals, and four blocks against A&M-Corpus Christi (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

The USC women’s basketball team defeated the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders 87-55 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. All but two Women of Troy scored with four reaching the double digits. Senior McKenzie Forbes and freshman Juju Watkins tied for 23 points; junior forward Rayah Marshall scored 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Before the game, it was announced that Watkins broke the USC single-season scoring record; the record was previously set by Cheryl Miller.

“That’s crazy for any freshman,” said Women of Troy head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. “It’s … at USC where the woman she surpasses is literally the best basketball player of all time.”

Watkins mentioned how she was grateful to be a part of the Trojan legacy. She referred to Miller as “G.O.A.T.” when asked about advice that Miller has given her.

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“She trusted in my mentality, I think we’re similar in some ways as far as competitiveness and want to win,” Watkins said. “She always encouraged that  and encouraged me never to lose that when I’m competing with my team.”

USC forward Kaitlyn Davis (24) defends A&M-Corpus Christi guard Paige Allen (11) (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

The Women of Troy put forth a strong defensive effort, making 14 blocks and 14 steals in the contest. Forbes noticed how USC could have improved.

“When we’re running out on transition, I think that’s when we’re playing at our best,” Forbes said. “I think we had a couple of plays where we were like ‘we need to string some stops together so we can get that pace back which I thought we did a good job of in the third quarter.”

Islanders senior guard Mireia Aguado led with 15 points and senior guard Paige Allen made nine rebounds. Head coach Royce Chadwick noted that he was proud of their effort.

“I thought they fought, I thought we gave everything we had all night long,” Chadwick said. “We weren’t the biggest team on the floor but I thought we played with big heart.”

The Women of Troy came out strong, jumping to a 21-4 start in the first quarter. USC put on a strong performance on defense with seven blocks and three steals in the phase.

The Islanders found their shot in the second quarter, cutting their deficit to as little as nine points.

The Women of Troy shot at 54.3 percent from the field and 38.5 percent in three-pointers against A&M-Corpus Christi (Jevone Moore/L.A. Sentinel)

“We got settled into the game,” said senior Alecia Westbrook. “Playing on this big of a stage was like a shock moment.”

Watkins made seven points in the final minutes of the half, helping the Women of Troy to a 16-point lead.

USC only shot at 33.3 percent in the second half but improved to 65 percent in the third phase. Forbes led the effort by scoring 16 points in the third.

The Trojan bench scored 17 points, including five points from guard India Otto.

“I think honestly words fall short to describe what that feeling meant to me,” Otto said. “That is a core memory for me for sure. A culmination of everything I put into this program the last five years, it was really, really special.”

The Women of Troy will now face the Kansas Jayhawks who defeated the Michigan Wolverines 81-72. Guard Zakiyah Franklin scored 22 points in the matchup. The Jayhawks shot at 47.4 percent from the field and was eight of 21 (38.1 percent) from three-point range.

“Kansas is gonna pose a ton of issues on Monday,” Gottlieb said. “They’re a really good team and we got to get ready for that.”

The Women of Troy will battle the Jayhawks on March 25 at 7:00P.M. at the Galen Center.