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Battle plan is clear for USC’s opponents; Trojans must find ways to adjust

The USC Trojans have JuJu Watkins, a luminous star who will score baskets on nights when other players struggle to produce. Such was the case Friday night in the Galen Center against Oregon State. Rayah Marshall and McKenzie Forbes went a combined 5 of 21 from the field. The Trojans easily could have lost on a night when two important players were not at their best.

JuJu Watkins, seeing how much her teammates were struggling, took it upon herself to shoot the ball and win the game. She did score 28 of USC’s 56 points — exactly half of the Trojans’ point total — but she needed a whopping 33 shot attempts to score those points.

The plan was clear from the Oregon State side: Make JuJu work for her points and defend the other key players on the Trojan roster. The plan limited USC to 56 points and gave Oregon State a chance to take the lead in the final 10 seconds. The Beavers missed a go-ahead 3-pointer and two follow-up attempts for a tying basket. USC got out of Dodge with a 56-54 win and dealt Oregon State its first loss of the season (12-1), and the Trojans should be happy with a win over a good opponent.

Nevertheless, USC’s win felt a lot like the Trojans’ games last season. Their defense was good enough to win. Their offense was bad enough to put them in danger.

Remember last season? USC went through a lot of dry spells on offense and did not shoot particularly well. JuJu Watkins is the elite scorer USC lacked last season, but as we saw against Oregon State, defenses are going to make her work hard. Other players will need to shoot well.

Kayla Padilla stepped up huge for USC against Oregon State. Making 4 of 5 3-pointers saved USC’s bacon. However, USC earned only seven free throws against Oregon State. Rayah Marshall grabbed six offensive rebounds yet scored only seven points. She wasn’t able to consistently finish plays near the rim. Oregon State didn’t give away many cheap points and forced JuJu to make tough shots. That’s going to be a formula USC will see over and over again.

USC’s defense is good enough to win a lot of games this season. The Oregon State game showed that USC’s offense has a long way to go, even with JuJu Watkins.

The good news: The Trojans learned something about their limitations against Oregon State but didn’t have to pay for that knowledge with a loss.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire