January 2, 2024 

Locked On Women’s Basketball: Juju Watkins, Lauren Betts writing LA stories for USC and UCLA

'USC has been waiting for this moment and the fact that it's happening [while] UCLA is No. 2 in the country is a big deal for LA"

2024 has arrived, and the Pac-12 officially begun its final ride. Though that might feel like a somber note to begin the year with, the scene at Pauley Pavilion last Saturday was hardly tearful — as UCLA took on close rival USC, the arena was more raucous than ever. On today’s episode of Locked On Women’s Basketball, The Next‘s Cameron Ruby joins host Howard Megdal to discuss her live reporting from the game and how the meteoric rise of Juju Watkins and Lauren Betts has helped reignite women’s college basketball in Los Angeles.

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“UCLA has been really constant — they’ve been good for a long time. USC has had bits and pieces here and there. Those of us who’ve been watching the Pac-12 have been waiting for it to all fall into place for them,” Ruby said. “I think adding Juju Watkins to the mix, [she’s an] LA native, the crowd was excited for her the same way they were excited for UCLA. I won’t say it was quite the same volume, but it was not that far off. And she brought a huge number of USC fans into the building, you could tell that there were a lot of people there who were just so excited to watch her play, see her energy and her motor and all of that.”


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“USC has been waiting for this moment and the fact that it’s happening at the same time that UCLA is number two in the country is just such a big deal for the sport in LA,” she continued.

Even before she touched the court with the Trojans, Juju Watkins was already turning heads around the Pac-12. She is just the second Gatorade National Girls Basketball Player of the Year to play at USC; currently sitting at an average of 26.8 points per game, good enough for second in the country, it’s safe to say she’s living up to astronomical expectations. But, Ruby explained, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for Watkins against UCLA, as the Bruins had dedicated Charisma Osborne (who is, to Ruby, “one of the most elite defenders in the Pac 12 and maybe the country”) to the task of defending Watkins.

“Things did not go Juju’s way in the first quarter, [Osborne] is playing like full deny defense on her,” Ruby said. “and “Watkins ended up turning it on in the second quarter, she ended up drawing eight fouls in the game, which I think is like a testament to the fact that she adjusted when things weren’t falling, and she found other ways to work. She was fighting around Lauren Betts for every single rebound.”


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“I think seeing [Watkins] in person and seeing kind of the energy and the poise that she plays with it was really different than seeing it on TV,” Ruby explained. “She had three fouls pretty early in the game, and the trust that [head coach Lindsay Gottlieb] had to leave her in, and let her play through it [during] the biggest matchup they’ve had this year is a testament to what [Gottlieb] is already seeing [from Watkins].”

Megdal and Ruby also discussed UCLA’s practically unbeatable combo of Lauren Betts and Charisma Osoborne, and how much the duo brings to the Bruins on both ends of the court. They also reflected on the legacy of the Pac-12 and of women’s college basketball in Los Angeles.

Check out The Next‘s Pac-12 coverage to stay up to date with conference results, storylines and much more. Make sure to subscribe to the Locked On Women’s Basketball podcast to keep learning about women’s college basketball, the WNBA, basketball history and much more!

Written by The Next

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