NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Action Tonight, Elite 8: (1) Southern California vs. (3) UConn, 9:15 p.m. ESPN

By Marisol Nicholson

4 1 2024


A No. 1 seed for the first time since 1986, USC clashes with No. 3 seeded Huskies in NCAA Regional Final on Monday.


ELITE EIGHT — April 1 | 6:15 p.m. PT (Moda Center | Portland, Ore.)
[1] USC (29-5) vs. [3] UConn (32-5)

Series Record: USC trails 0-2
First Meeting: UConn 68, USC 44 [12/7/02 • Storrs, Conn.]
Last Meeting: UConn 72, USC 69 [12/7/04 • Los Angeles]
TV: ESPN (Talent: Debbie Antonelli, Beth Mowins, Angel Gray) STATS

A No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1986, USC (29-5) has punched a ticket to the Elite Eight for the first time in 30 years. After beating Baylor 74-70 in the Sweet 16, the Trojans are now in the Portland Regional Final. USC is now set for a clash with No. 3 seed UConn (32-5) at 6:15 p.m. on Monday (April 1) at the Moda Center in Portland. The winner will advance to the Final Four in Cleveland.

• Entering the Elite Eight, USC is now 32-15 in NCAA competition, with two national titles won (1983 and 1984).
• This is the Trojans’ 18th trip to the NCAA Tournament.
• USC’s No. 1 seed in 2024 is its fifth top seed all-time, last earned in 1986.
• USC’s is making back-to-back NCAA appearances for the first time since 2006.
• USC’s last Elite Eight appearance was in 1994, when USC fell to Louisiana Tech 75-66 in Fayetteville, Ark.
• USC was a No. 8 seed in the 2023 NCAA tourney, falling in the first round to South Dakota State in overtime 62-57 in Blacksburg, Va.
• USC last earned an NCAA automatic berth in 2014 after winning USC’s first Pac-12 Tournament championship.
• Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb has led three different programs to the NCAA Tournament — UC Santa Barbara (2009), California (seven appearances in eight seasons) and USC (2023 and 2024).
• USC has played nine other teams in the 68-team field of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, posting a 13-4 record against those opponents this season [No. 2 seed Stanford (2-0); No. 2 seed UCLA (12-1), No. 2 seed Ohio State (1-0), No. 3 seed Oregon State (2-0), No. 5 seed Colorado (1-1), No. 5 seed Utah (0-2), No. 11 seed Arizona (3-0), No. 12 seed FGCU (1-0) and No. 13 seed UC Irvine (1-0].
• USC is one of seven Pac-12 teams in this year’s NCAA bracket, and one of two in the Elite Eight.
• Before this year, the last time USC had played in and hosted NCAA competition was 1994.

ESPN is televising the Portland Regional, with Debbie Antonelli, Beth Mowins and Angel Gray on the calls. USC games also are live on KABC 790 and streamed at and the USC Trojans GameDay app with Jordan Moore on the calls.

IN THE POLLS        
USC’s No. 21 preseason national ranking marked the fourth time the Trojans have appeared in preseason AP and USA Today polls since 2005. It was the highest preseason ranking for USC in that span, following No. 23 in 2011, No. 22 and 2006 and No. 24 (AP) and No. 22 (USA Today) in 2005. In the final AP poll (March 18), USC ranks No. 3 in the nation — matching its highest ranking since 1986. USC also ranks No. 3 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll (released March 19).

QUICK HITS        
• Now 29-5 overall, USC has recorded its most wins since going 31-5 in 1985-86 under head coach Linda Sharp.
• Ranked No. 3 in the national AP poll, USC holds its highest ranking since being No. 3 in the final 1986 poll.
• USC’s 23 regular-season wins marked its most such victories since 1993-94.
• USC’s No. 2 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament was its highest-ever seeding for the tourney.
• HC Lindsay Gottlieb is the first coach to ever lead two different Pac-12 programs to the conference title game — she led Cal to 2012 & 2015 title games and won 2024 Pac-12 championship with USC.
• At 13-5 in Pac-12 play, USC collected its most conference wins in a season since 1996-97.
• USC finished Pac-12 play with a program record of six straight conference road wins.
• With its 10-0 start to this season, USC recorded back-to-back 9-0 starts for just the second time in program history, going back to the 1983-84 (10-0) and 1984-85 (10-0) seasons.
• With regular-season wins over then-No. 7 Ohio State, No. 2 UCLA and at No. 4 Stanford, USC recorded three wins over top-10 opponents during the regular season for the first time since 1985-86.
• USC’s seven straight Pac-12 wins was its longest single-season conference win streak since 2004-05.
• USC was ranked in the nation’s top 10 for 10 straight weeks in AP polls from Nov. 13, 2023-Feb. 12, 2024.
• In all, USC has been ranked as a top-10 team in all but two weeks of competition this season.
• USC was ranked No. 6 in the national AP poll for five straight weeks before moving to No. 9 on Jan. 1 following the Trojans’ loss at No. 2 UCLA.
• USC is 8-4 against teams currently ranked in the NET top-25.
• Rayah Marshall has taken over from Paula McGee as USC No. 3 all-time blocks leader (233 career blocks).
• JuJu Watkins has become the sixth USC player ever to be named a First Team All-American (joining Cheryl Miller, Pam McGee, Paula McGee, Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson).
• Her 51-point game at Stanford set a USC record and is the most by any DI player in the nation this season.
• Watkins’ 13 games of 30-plus points is a USC all-time record (men’s and women’s) in a season and beats out Iowa’s Caitlin Clark previous record of 12 for the most such games for a freshman over the last 25 seasons.
• Watkins’ 42 points vs. Colorado on Feb. 23 is the most points ever scored by a USC basketball player (male or female) at Galen Center.
• Watkins now ranks No. 2 all-time in single-season scoring by a true freshman in the nation (891 points) — seven points from the record set in 1984 by San Diego State’s Tina Hutchinson.
• With her 891 points scored this season, Watkins has scored more single-season points than any USC player — male or female.
• McKenzie Forbes has hit at least one 3-pointer in all but three games this season.
• Both McKenzie Forbes and Kayla Williams scored their 1,000th career points during this season.
• Kayla Padilla scored her 1,500th career point during this season.
• USC is 15-0 this season when holding opponents under 60 points and is 22-0 when USC scores 70 or more.
• Eight players earned Dean’s List honors with Fall GPAs of 3.5 or higher: Clarice AkunwafoTaylor BigbyKaitlyn DavisRoxane MakoloKayla PadillaMalia SamuelsJuJu Watkins and Kayla Williams.

USC gutted out an intense final four minutes to claw out of a three-point hole to beat No. 5 seed Baylor 74-70 and secure the Trojans’ first trip to the NCAA Elite Eight since 1994. In a battle that saw 11 lead changes, USC made an 8-0 run to get back on top in the fourth quarter, while JuJu Watkins worked her way to her 14th 30-point game of the season to help her Trojans earn the Sweet 16 victory. The lead changed hands five times in the first frame before USC managed a 10-point lead during the second, and the Trojans would grip a 37-31 halftime advantage. USC had shot 40 percent from the floor in those first 20 minutes, bettering Baylor’s 32 percent effort from the floor. The teams were even on the boards at 23 apiece, with USC’s Rayah Marshall hauling in a whopping 11 first-half rebounds. Baylor heated up in the third and shot 65 percent from the floor to work back on top and lead it 57-53 entering the fourth. An 8-0 fourth-quarter run by the Trojans erased a three-point hole and had the top seeds leading it with 3:13 to to go, and USC fended off the Bears the rest of the way. USC finished out the game shooting 39.4 percent overall to edge out Baylor’s 38.6 percent. The Bears won the battle of the boards 44-41 and hit nine 3-pointers, but USC’s five threes and a 17-of-21 effort from the free-throw line helped the Trojans secure the Sweet 16 win. USC was led by Watkins’ game-high 30 points, which included a 12-of-13 outing from the free-throw line. McKenzie Forbes was next with 14 points for USC, while Rayah Marshall had her 14th double-double of the season with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Baylor got 17 points from Sarah Andrew, 15 from Jada Walker and a double-double from Darianna Littlepage-Buggs with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Dre’una Edwards also collected 12 rebounds for the Bears.
– With 30 points, Watkins now ranks No. 2 all-time on the NCAA freshman scoring list with 891 points this season.
– Watkins now ranks No. 3 in the Pac-12 for most points scored by any player in a single season.
– Watkins now has had 14 games of 30 or more points scored this season, adding to her USC record.
– With 11 points and 16 rebounds, Marshall recorded her 14th double-double of the season and the 34th of her career. She has posted a double-double in six of her last eight games.
– In going 2-for-2 from 3-point range, Forbes has made at least one 3-pointer in 31 games this season.
– Over the last four games, Forbes has made 50 percent of her 3-point attempts (15-for-30).
– USC is now 22-0 when scoring 70 or more points in a game this season.
– USC held Baylor to 38.6% shooting for the game; Baylor entered the game averaging 44.5% this season.
– With 12 free throws made, Watkins extended her USC record for free throws made in a single season with 232.
– This was her eighth game this season registering double figures in free throws made.
– Now 29-5 overall, USC has recorded its most wins since going 31-5 in 1985-86 under head coach Linda Sharp.

USC exerted its defensive power in the first and fourth quarters and held No. 8 seed Kansas to a season-low 55 points as the Trojans punched their ticket to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 30 years with a 73-55 win over the Jayhawks at Galen Center. In front of a crowd of 8,941, USC’s JuJu Watkins recorded a double-double while McKenzie Forbes landed six of USC’s season-high 13 3-pointers on the night. The Trojans never trailed, but did have to fend off the Jayhawks when they closed to within one point late in the third quarter. USC responded with a 10-0 run that stretched into the fourth to create space, and the Trojans held Kansas to just nine points in the final frame while pouring out 20 of their own to press on to victory. USC rode a wave of eight first-half 3-pointers to lead things 33-24 by halftime. The Trojans never trailed in those first 20 minutes, also benefiting from 16 points off of 12 Jayhawk turnovers. USC was shooting better from 3-point range (42.1 percent) than from the floor overall (35.3 percent) in the first half, while Kansas was a 34.6 percent overall and had landed one 3-pointer. The Jayhawks were winning the battle of the boards by the break, ahead 23-16. By the final buzzer, Kansas was still ahead on the rebounding front with a 40-39 lead, but USC had upped its offense to finish out the game at 37.3 percent, with 13 threes landed in the end. Kansas finished at 35.7 percent overall, and had committed 18 turnovers that USC converted into 25 points. Watkins provided USC’s first and last points of the night, finishing up with a game-high 28 points along with 11 rebounds to tally her eighth double-double. Forbes finished with 20 points for the Trojans, while Clarice Akunwafo served up a booming six blocks on the defensive end. Kansas received 22 points from S’Mya Nichols and a double-double from Taiyanna Jackson with 10 points and 18 rebounds.
– USC is now 15-0 when holding an opponent under 60 points.
– USC tied its season-high of 3-pointers made with 13.
– With her career-high six 3-pointers made, Forbes has hit at least one 3-pointer in 30 games this season.
– Akunwafo had a career-high six blocks and a season-high nine rebounds.
– With 28 points and 11 rebounds Watkins recorded her eighth double-double of the season.
– With six free-throws made, Watkins is now USC’s record holder in free-throws made in a single season with 261.
– With three 3-pointers, Padilla has now hit at least three 3-pointers in 12 games this season.
– This win secured Lindsay Gotttlieb’s second trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a head coach (Last appearance: 2013 season with California)
– USC held Kansas to a season-low 55 points.

FIRST-ROUND VICTORY                
USC rode a powerful all-around performance with 10 Trojans scoring on the offensive end and a whopping 14 blocks delivered on the defensive end in an 87-55 win over No. 16 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the NCAA First Round at the Galen Center. A crowd of 8,386 fans saw USC freshman JuJu Watkins break Trojan great Cheryl Miller’s single-season scoring record, now with 833 points, while the Trojans’ 14 blocks marked the second most in a game in program history. USC now holds a 27-5 overall record as the Trojans step into the NCAA Second Round for the first time since 2006. USC dished out 10 blocks in the first quarter and crafted a 21-0 scoring rally to take early control of things. The Trojans would lead it 36-20 at halftime, having shot 46.7 percent from the floor to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi’s 23.5 percent. The Islanders were ahead on the boards 22-20, while USC’s JuJu Watkins had 15 points in place in the first half. McKenzie Forbes provided a whole 16 points all her own in the third quarter alone to help USC lead it 71-41 entering the fourth. By the final buzzer, USC had pinned up 14 blocks — second most ever in a game and most since 1984 — and had shot a steamy 52.3 percent from the floor overall. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ended up a 33.3 percent, and the Trojans wound up winning the battle of the boards 40-37.USC was led by a game-high 23 points apiece from freshman Watkins and McKenzie Forbes, while Rayah Marshall checked in with double-double on 10 points and 11 rebounds and Kayla Padilla added 10 points for the Trojans. The Islanders received 15 points from Violeta Verano and 12 from Alecia Westbrook.
– With 23 points, Watkins now holds USC’s single-season scoring record — male or female — now with 833 points so far this season.
– Watkins now also ranks No. 3 all-time in single-season scoring by any D1 freshman.
– USC’s 14 blocks is the second most in a game in program history (record is 18 vs. Pepperdine on 12/4/84)
– With five blocks, Akunwafo set a new career high.
– With 10 points and 11 rebounds, Marshall recorded her 13th double-double of the season and 33rd of her career.
– Marshall has now recorded double-digit rebounds in the last six games.
– With three 3-pointers today, Padilla has now hit at least three 3-pointers in 11 games this season
– RS SR India Otto set a season-high point total with five points tonight.
– Forbes hit her highest field goal percentage in going 9-of-14 (.642) from the field.
– USC is now 13-0 when scoring over 80 points in a game and 14-0 when holding an opponent to under 60 points.
– USC is now 21-1 when outrebounding its opponents.
– USC’s 87-55 win marks its largest margin of victory in the NCAA First Round since 1982 (vs. Kent State, 99-55).

With her 42-point effort at Oregon, JuJu Watkins set a new USC record in marking her 11th 30-plus-point game of the season — beating the all-time single-season record of 10 held by Cheryl Miller. She had stolen the freshman-season record from Lisa Leslie and Pam McGee with her fourth such outing just six games into her Trojan career. Back-to-back 30-point efforts vs. Cal Poly and vs. San Diego followed a 31-point outing vs. Penn State on Nov. 22, giving Watkins three consecutive 30-point games. That tied another USC record set by Miller, who also had three straight 30-point outings during her junior 1984-85 season. Her USC record-breaking 51 points scored at Stanford stands as the most points scored by a D1 player in a game this season. With 27.0 points per game, Watkins ranks No. 2 in the nation in scoring, and her USC-record 30-plus outings tally now stands at 14 this season — most in a season by any USC basketball player, male or female.

FORBES LISTED                
McKenzie Forbes, who was a two-time Pac-12 Freshman of the Week while playing at Cal years ago, secured her first Pac-12 Player of the Week honors and also locked up a selection as an Ann Meyers Drysdale National Player of the Week after tallying a season-high 17 points vs. Cal State Fullerton and then more than doubling that effort with a career-high 36 points in an 85-77 road win at Long Beach State. Her 36 points was the most scored in a game by a Trojan since Mariya Moore scored 36 in 2019. Also against the Beach, Forbes made a career-high 13 free throws on a career-high 16 attempts and collected a season-high seven rebounds. She scored in double figures six straight games from 11/28-12/30. Recently, Forbes picked up another set of national accolades with a spot on the Cheryl Miller Small Forward of the Year Top 10 List. An All-Pac-12 Team honoree and the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, she’s hit at least one 3-pointer in all but three of USC’s games this season.

BLOCK LOCK        
Defense was one of USC’s strengths last season with the help of Rayah Marshall, who earned 2023 All-Pac12 Team honors as she led the conference in total rebounds with 322 and was second in the nation with 98 blocks as a sophomore. Now a junior and coming off a summer playing for the USA in the FIBA Women’s AmeriCup, Marshall’s shot blocking and rebounding ability coupled with her newfound leadership has made her an essential role player for the Women of Troy as she stands tall in the paint as a center. After tacking up her 21st career double-double in USC’s season opener, Marshall also added to her impressive blocks streak, which extended to 53 straight games until being interrupted on Nov. 13. As of March 25, she ranks No. 22 in the nation with a mark of 2.1 blocks per game, and she has recorded at least one block in all but three games in which she’s played this season. After adding two blocks to her tally on Jan. 5, Marshall took over as USC’s No. 3 all-time shot blocker — a spot that had been held by Trojan great Paula McGee. Marshall was recently named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Watch List.

USC claimed its second Pac-12 Tournament championship a decade after winning its first, having earned its highest-ever seeding as the No. 2 seed in the 2024 bracket. The Trojans claimed their third win of the season over Arizona with a 65-62 victory in the quarterfinals before squaring off against crosstown rival UCLA for the third time in their semifinal bout. It took double overtime to decide that semi, with USC pushing past the Bruins in the second OT to win it 80-70 and earn a place in the conference tournament final for the third time in program history. Up against top-seeded and No. 2 ranked Stanford, USC broke a tie to lead it early in the second quarter and stayed out ahead the rest of the way with a commanding performance from the Trojans in a 74-61 championship victory. McKenzie Forbes, who scored 26 points for USC in the final, was named the Pac-12 Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and JuJu Watkins, who had 33 for USC in the semifinal vs. UCLA, was named to the Pac-12 All-Tournament Team.
– JR Rayah Marshall recorded double-doubles in all three games at the tourney, up to 12 double-doubles this season and with 32 in her USC career to rank No. 8 all-time.
– Marshall has recorded double-digit rebounds in five straight games.
– Marshall is now stands along in the USC record books at No. 10 all-time in career rebounds with 841.
– GS Kaitlyn Davis served up a season-high five assists.
– With 59 points across the three games, FR JuJu Watkins has now scored the second most points in a single season at USC with 810, behind Cheryl Miller’s record of 814 in 1985-86.
– Watkins is now four points away from the No. 3 mark nationally in total points by a D1 true freshman.
– Watkins recorded her seventh double-double as a Trojans in USC’s win over UCLA.
– Also vs. UCLA, GS Kaitlyn Davis recorded a season-high 16 rebounds — two off her career high set while at Columbia.
– USC had lost all four previous meetings with UCLA at the Pac-12 Tournament (2022, 2020, 2010, 2008).
– It was the third Pac-12 Tournament title game appearance for HC Lindsay Gottlieb, who is the first coach to ever lead two different Pac-12 programs to the title game (led Cal to 2012 & 2015 title games).
– USC has now won two Pac-12 Tournament titles (2014 & 2024), making the Trojans just the third team to win multiple conference tournament titles (Stanford & Oregon).
– The last time USC beat Stanford twice in a season was a three-win performance in 1986-87.
– USC has now recorded five wins over top-10 ranked opponents this season — the most such wins in a single season since also winning five in 1984-85.

WE GOT GOTTLIEB             
Just before her team was to earn its first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament since 1986, USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb was listed among 10 other semifinalists for the Werner Ladder Naismith Coach of the Year award. In her third season at USC, Gottlieb has guided her No. 3 Women of Troy to their highest national ranking since 1986, coming off USC’s run to the Pac-12 Tournament Championship. That run included wins over two top-10 opponents — No. 7 UCLA and No. 2 Stanford — to give USC its most wins over top-10 opponents since 1985-86 with five such victories. Also this season, the Trojans have captured the most wins (26) in a season since 1993-94. Gottlieb has since been named a finalist for the award.

TOP-10 TAKEDOWN            
USC notched its first season-opening win over a ranked opponent since 1990 with an upset victory over No. 7 Ohio State at the Hall of Fame Series at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. That 1990 upset win came over a No. 7 Texas team, with Trojan great Lisa Leslie delivering 30 points in her freshman debut at USC. Fitting, then, that today’s statement win by the Women of Troy featured a 32-point effort from true freshman JuJu Watkins. Leslie and Watkins both were named Gatorade National Players of the Year as seniors in high school before signing on to USC. Up 46-28 at halftime, USC was shooting 51.4 percent from the floor in those first 20 minutes, with Watkins holding 16 points and Rayah Marshall already at a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds by the break. Ohio State, which made just two field foals in the second quarter while winding up at 29.6 percent shooting the first half. The Buckeyes would bounce back, however, benefitting from a swaying foul count and almost matching USC’s second-quarter effort in outscoring USC 30-10 in the third. A stalwart effort from the Trojans would pull them back ahead in the fourth, fending off the No. 7 Buckeyes to win the day in Vegas. USC finished out the game shooting 51 percent overall to outpace Ohio State’s 40-percent effort. USC also outrebounded the Buckeyes 43-28. Led by freshman Watkins’ game-high 32 points, USC also saw Marshall net her 21st career double-double with a final 18 points and 17 rebounds. Marshall also extended her impressive blocks streak to 52 straight games with two more tallied today, and added a career-high six steals. Also hitting double digits for the Trojans was McKenzie Forbes with 11 while Kaitlyn Davis added nine rebounds for USC and Watkins dished out five assists. Ohio State was paced by Jacy Sheldon’s 28 points along with 16 from Taylor Thierry.
– USC’s win over No. 7 Ohio State was its first season-opening victory over a ranked opponent since 1990, when a No. 25 USC team upset No. 7 Texas 88-77 (11/25/90).
– With 32 points, Watkins beat Lisa Leslie’s 30-point effort in her first game as a USC freshman — recorded in that aforementioned 1990 season opener.
– Watkins’ 32 points scored was the most by a USC (or any Pac-12) freshman since Alissa Pili (32 points) in 2020.
– Only two other USC freshmen have scored more than 32 points in a game — Cheryl Miller (39 points vs. Northwestern, 11/30/82) and Lisa Leslie (33 points at Cal, 1/17/91).
– Marshall recorded her 21st career double-double with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
– With two blocks, Marshall extended her streak to 52 straight games with at least one block.
– Marshall also recorded a career-high six steals.
– Five players scored their first points as Trojans: Watkins (32 points), Forbes (11), Padilla (8), Davis (4) and Samuels (2).
– USC’s last win over a top-10 opponent had been a 55-46 victory over No. 2 Stanford last season (1/13/23).

TOP TALENT            
For just the second time in program history, USC welcomed the Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year to Troy, with the addition of freshman JuJu Watkins. Watkins follows in the footsteps of another Los Angeles native, Lisa Leslie, a Trojan great who was the Gatorade Player of the Year in 1990 on her way into USC. Watkins picked up All-Pac-12 Preseason Honorable Mention, and has been named to the Naismith and Wooden watch lists. Recently, the phenom was named to the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award Top 10 List as well as the Wade Watch and Naismith Midseason Watch List. She’s also a semifinalist for the prestigious Sullivan Award.

VETERAN STATUS            
In addition to Marshall, USC boasts a strong group of returners from last season’s success. Now a senior, guard Kayla Williams picked up 2023 Pac-12 All-Defensive Honorable Mention, having started all 31 games as a reliable backcourt defender for the team. Also back for more in 2023-24 is redshirt sophomore guard Taylor Bigby, who brings length and sharpshooting to the perimeter, where fifth-year guard India Otto also is a proven threat. Now with two years under her belt at USC, 6-6 center Clarice Akunwafo is back to help man the paint as a junior.

DEPTH CHARGE            
Freshman Malia Samuels comes into the season having been named Washington’s 2022 3A Player of the Year, adding point guard savvy and defensive talents to the squad. USC’s guard depth is intensified as redshirt sophomore guard Dominique Darius steps on the court this season for her first action as a Trojan following her midseason transfer from UCLA. And after redshirting her first season, guard Aaliyah Gayles made her Trojan debut as well this year.

GRAD GREATS                
With a proven eye for talent, Lindsay Gottlieb added four graduate transfers to the 2023-24 Trojan roster. Three — Kaitlyn DavisMcKenzie Forbes and Kayla Padilla — were standouts in the Ivy League, and one — Roxane Makolo — boasts international experience with Team Canada. A proven point guard in her time at Penn, Padilla joins the Trojans as a three-time All-Ivy First Team selection. Her speed and basketball IQ will be an asset to the team for the upcoming season. Marshall and Akunwafo will be supported in the paint with Columbia forward Davis, whose strength and agility make her extremely difficult to defend. With depth comes versatility as Forbes returns to her home state after three strong years at Harvard, where she earned 2022 All-Ivy Second Team honors.

LAST SEASON            
During the 2022-23 season, the USC women went 11-7 in conference play and finished 21-10 overall. Succeeding in arguably one of the most competitive conferences, the Women of Troy were able to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014, when USC won the Pac-12 Tournament title. USC’s 2023 NCAA appearance marked its first at-large bid into the tourney since 2006. The Trojan defense set a program record last season in holding opponents to just 35.4 percent shooting from the floor. •

WNBA DRAFT DOUBLE                
Kadi Sissoko and Okako Adika were picked back-to-back in the 2023 WNBA Draft Third Round as the 29th and 30th overall players chosen, respectively. A 6-2 forward from Paris, France, Sissoko was the Trojans’ top scorer and was selected by the Phoenix Mercury. A full-time starter from Holster, Denmark, Adika — a 6-0 guard — was a defensive lock who came up big for the Trojans and was picked by the New York Liberty. It was the first time since 2012 and just the third time ever that USC has had two players selected in a WNBA Draft. They followed 2012 picks for Jacki Gemelos and Briana Gilbreath, and 1997 draftees Pam McGee and Tina Thompson. Adika was waived for the 2023 season, while Sissoko played the full season with the Mercury.

Six standouts from six different states have signed on to join head coach Lindsay Gottlieb‘s Women of Troy for 2024, including the top player out of California for the second straight year. Three members of USC’s incoming class — Kennedy Smith, Kayley Heckel and Avery Howell — have been named to the Jersey Mike’s Naismith Girl’s High School Player of the Year Watch List. As of Nov. 21, ESPN ranked USC’s incoming 2024 class as No. 1 in the nation.
KENNEDY SMITH | 6-1 G | Etiwanda, Calif. (Etiwanda HS)
Gatorade California Player of the Year | McDonald’s All-American | Jordan Brand Classic | Naismith Trophy Semifinalist | LA Times Player of the Year
Kennedy Smith stands as the No. 6 recruit in the nation as she turns to a career as a Trojan. An all-state first-teamer as a junior, Smith was also selected to the 2023 Los Angeles Times All-Star Team and was a Nike EYBL Champion with CalSparks. She has helped Etiwanda to a 2023 Open Division State Championship and the 2022 Southern Section title and also was named the 2023 Press Enterprise Inland Empire Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
KAYLEIGH HECKEL | 5-9 PG | Port Chester, N.Y. (Long Island Lutheran HS)
McDonald’s All-American | Jordan Brand Classic | Naismith Trophy Midseason Team
Already with 2,000 points in her prep career, Kayleigh Heckel helped lead her high school squad to a national runner-up finish in her junior season and was named the MaxPreps New York Player of the Year. Ranked No. 27 in the nation overall, she also is a 2022 Nike TOC Champion and plays AAU ball with Exodus NYC.
RIAN FORESTIER | 5-11 G | San Antonio, Texas (Brandeis HS)
Ranked as the top guard in Texas, Rian Forestier is a noted 3-point threat and a regular on all-state, all-region and all-district honor rolls. District MVP as a junior, she was the All-Area and All-District Newcomer of the Year as a freshman at Brandeis High in San Antonio. Also committed to community service, Forestier founded a non-profit called 4WARD, which donates new basketball shoes to middle school girls in the San Antonio region.
AVERY HOWELL | 6-0 G | Boise, Idaho (Boise HS)
Gatorade Idaho State Player of the Year | McDonald’s All-American | Naismith Trophy Midseason Team
The 2023 and 2024 Gatorade Idaho Player of the Year, Avery Howell stands ranked No. 23 in the nation and was a participant in the Wooten Top 150. Also an invitee to the Canadian National Team’s training camp in 2023, Howell is a highly touted guard who set single-season records in points and rebounds in her junior season at Boise High, which finished third at the 2023 state championships. She participate in the Adidas 3SSB Eurocamp and was one of the top scorers and rebounders on the Adidas Circuit in the summer.
LAURA WILLIAMS | 6-1 F | Fairfax, Va. (St. Paul VI Catholic HS)
The top-ranked player in Virginia, Laura Williams has helped St. Paul VI continue its run of state titles. A top-100 player in ESPN’s 2024 class, Williams averaged 11.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game with Fairfax Stars AAU on the 2023 summer Nike EYBL circuit soon after earning First Team All-State honors.
VIVIAN IWUCHUKWU | 6-3 F | Montverde, Fla. (Montverde Academy)
Ranked as the No. 47 recruit in the nation by ESPNW, Iwuchukwu helped Montverde to a 26-1 record last season, claiming back-to-back GEICO High School Nationals titles in her sophomore and junior years. The sister of current USC men’s player, Vince, she is a 2022 Adidas Circuit runner-up and was named to the 2023 Nike EYBL All-Tournament Team, playing club for Essence AAU.






PORTLAND – The third-seeded UConn women’s basketball team (32-5) continues its NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship run in the Elite Eight vs. No. 1-seed USC (29-5) on Monday at 9:20 p.m. ET in the Moda Center. The game will air on ESPN and the UConn Sports Network from Learfield (FOX Sports 97-9).

This is UConn’s 35th overall and straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies have played in each NCAA Tournament beginning with the 1988-89 season. UConn is the winningest program in NCAA Tournament games with a 135-23 overall record. This is the third time in program history that UConn is a three seed.

This is UConn’s 28th appearance in the Elite Eight. The Huskies are 22-5 all-time in the Elite Eight.

UConn held on to beat Duke, 53-45, in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Saturday.  Redshirt junior Paige Bueckers led UConn with 24 points. The Huskies’ defense was on display as UConn posted 14 steals and the Blue Devils had 23 turnovers. UConn had 23 points off turnovers.

UConn is 2-0 all-time vs. USC. This will be the first meeting between the teams since 2003 and first in the NCAA Tournament. UConn faced USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb four times when she was the head coach for Cal with the last meeting coming in 2019.

Top-seeded USC beat No. 5- seed Baylor, 74-70, to advance to the regional final. The Trojans are led by freshman JuJu Watkins, who ranks second nationally with 27.0 points per game. Watkins leads the nation in free throws made and attempted. Gottlieb is in her third season at USC.