JuJu Watkins: Falling short in NCAA Tournament adds fuel to the fire at USC

On3 imageby:Nick Kosko04/02/24

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USC: Duce Robinson April 2nd 2024

JuJu Watkins took the world by storm as a freshman for USC this season. Ultimately, the Trojans fell short to UConn in the Elite Eight Monday.

But it’s going to springboard Watkins and USC in the next couple of seasons. Having that type of skill right away could propel USC to becoming a national title contender as long as Watkins is on the floor.

She seems to be ready to get back to work already.

“Yeah, I think just coming up short, that adds a lot of fuel to the fire for the next couple years,” Watkins said postgame. “I’m just excited to go back home and get in the gym now. I’m really focused on learning from this season as a whole, things I can improve on. Definitely my efficiency and stuff like that. But I’m just grateful for this year because I’ve learned a lot.”

Watkins broke the all-time freshman scoring record, so it wasn’t a season without accomplishments. At this rate, Watkins might be the one to challenge Caitlin Clark, who just broke the all-time scoring record for a career this year.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Watkins said. “I mean, of course, like I said, not really the terms I would like to end on, on my season, I mean, I’m just blessed. This program has offered me a lot. I’m so grateful for it. It’s just been a great season.

“The record is great. Just the moments that I’ve got to spend with this team have meant everything to me. I’m just excited for next year, yeah.”

Watkins exuded a lot of emotion in the postgame, particularly as UConn’s Paige Bueckers consoled her. Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb knows Watkins and the team will be better.

“I mean, I don’t think emotion is a bad thing, right? You cry or you have emotion because you care, because you really wanted something. We came up short tonight,” Gottlieb said. “I told them in there. I’ve coached for a long time. We did a lot more celebrating than some teams get to do. Certainly the confetti at the Pac-12 tournament was huge. We’re on the up-rise, right? So we celebrated the win at Stanford. We celebrate a win at home against Colorado or whatever happened, the UCLA win at home.

“We’ve had a lot of moments like that. I think I really want them to feel the emotion. We’ve had a lot more joy than sadness. This one really hurts.”