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USC locks down on defense, pulls away for blue-collar win over Oregon

The USC Trojans knew that when they took the court on Sunday afternoon against the Oregon Ducks, they might be in for a tough day. Playing an early-afternoon game after a grinding and tense Friday night game against Oregon State, they would not have a full-strength version of JuJu Watkins on a short turnaround.

Watkins left the Oregon State game with leg cramps. She had to rest for several minutes in the fourth quarter. That’s not normal for a player of her importance. She wouldn’t ordinarily leave a game in the fourth quarter if she was 100 percent. She played this game against Oregon, but not the same way she played against OSU. She attempted 33 shots against Oregon State and spilled the tank. She had to manage her energy level on Sunday against Oregon, taking only 18 shots and trying to get her teammates more involved.

Watkins needed help in this game. She got it.

McKenzie Forbes, who carried USC when Watkins and two other starters were out against Long Beach State on December 21, hit 7 of 13 field goals. Rayah Marshall went 6 for 8 and pulled down 9 rebounds with 4 blocked shots.

Watkins also got help from her teammates on defense. USC forced 14 Oregon turnovers and allowed the Ducks only four made 3-pointers and six made free throws. Few teams are going to lose a game when generating those kinds of numbers.

Watkins scored a modest 17 points, but she was active on the glass — 9 boards — and as a passer, handing out 6 assists. This was a complete team win for USC, which moves to 2-1 in the Pac-12 standings and still has just one loss this season.

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Story originally appeared on Trojans Wire