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Kayla Padilla once again answers the call for USC women’s basketball

JuJu Watkins is the superstar on this USC women’s basketball team. McKenzie Forbes is the 1-B to JuJu’s 1-A most of the time, and she was very much the main supporting actress in USC’s 87-81 win over Colorado on Friday night in the Galen Center. Yet, as much as USC gained from its premier duo, this win was more the product of three players than two. Kayla Padilla was a central, not peripheral, part of this victory.

Padilla exists in the background partly because of the enormity of JuJu Watkins’ superstardom, but also because her smaller frame makes it harder for her to create her own shot against taller defenders. McKenzie Forbes and JuJu can both play over the top more than Padilla can.

It has been important for USC’s offense to give Padilla opportunities to shoot. Friday we were reminded why that is the case. Let’s go into the details on her performance against Colorado:

BLENDING IN

 (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

JuJu Watkins scored 15 points in the first quarter and 22 in the first 14 minutes. When JuJu is going off like that, teammates aren’t going to — and shouldn’t — demand the ball. Padilla waited for her chance to make an impact as a scorer and shooter in this game.

FORBES STEPS UP

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

When JuJu wasn’t scoring in the first 14 minutes of the game against Colorado, McKenzie Forbes was USC’s Plan B. Forbes hit each of her first three 3-pointers. Padilla really didn’t need to get in the way of what was happening on USC’s offense. Everything was working well without needing to shoot or score. Padilla continued to wait.

BURST

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Padilla then found her moment late in the first half, hitting three 3-pointers in rapid-fire succession. Colorado began to defend JuJu a lot better late in the second quarter. Padilla then became more needed for USC, and she promptly filled the role. She really is a superb teammate in terms of finding her place and knowing when she needs to do certain things.

SECOND HALF

 (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

With Forbes and Watkins scoring in the second half, and with JuJu in particular getting to the free throw line for easy points, USC was getting production from its two best offensive players and had Colorado on its heels. Padilla didn’t need to demand the ball. She did her job and played a largely clean game with just two turnovers in 34 minutes of hard work. Her 12 points mattered quite a lot in a game USC won by six.

DEFENSE

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Padilla is a persistent, tough defensive player. Colorado’s offense flowed really well in the first two and a half quarters, shooting at 76 percent at one point in the third quarter. Padilla’s defense in the final 15 minutes helped knock CU’s shooting percentage down to 57 percent by the time the game was over. Colorado’s offense did not function well in the fourth quarter, and Padilla had a lot to do with that.

Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire