Lindsay Gottlieb: “As much hurt as we’re in, they earned it”

Connecticut v USC
Connecticut v USC / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The JuJu Watkins show has come to a close this season. After a phenomenal freshman year, Watkins and the USC Trojans are heading back to Southern California after losing to the UConn Huskies in the Elite Eight.

Watkins earned All-Region honors following the game against the Huskies. She led the Trojans with 29 points. She also contributed 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Not to mention, she set the single-season freshman scoring record.

Head coach Lindsay Gottlieb alongside Watkins and McKenzie Forbes joined the postgame press conference to talk about their season, their game, and their future.

“What we did this year is incredibly unique and something I won’t ever forget,” Gottlieb said.

Watkins was clearly emotional at the mic, tears still clinging to her eyelashes. One media member asked if she could appreciate the moment as someone who truly loves basketball.

“It’s a great time in women’s basketball, just very exciting,” Watkins said. “I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Watkins broke down on the stand. It was hard to watch such a stud, such a star, such a shining light in the league break down in such an emotional moment.

Seeing that side of an athlete not only brings them back down to earth but rehumanizes them.

“This kid [Watkins] committed to us when we were 12-6,” Gottlieb said. “Now look where we are. Her ability to do that and leap to where she has… She’s a winner.”

USC finished its season at 29-6 overall, 2nd in the Pac-12, and an incredible run in the NCAA Tournament. Watkins and Forbes were integral parts of the Trojans’ success throughout the year.

“Going into it, I was focused on guarding every action the right way,” Forbes said. “I did the best that I could… She made tough ones… great player, I have a lot of respect for her.”

Who was it that Forbes guarded throughout the Elite Eight matchup? The one and only Paige Bueckers.

UConn’s star guard Bueckers contributed an astonishing 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.

“I really wanna credit UConn, they earned their way to a Final Four,” Gottlieb said. “We didn’t give it to them, they earned it... As much hurt as we're in, they earned it.”

The UConn Huskies will face Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Final Four on April 5.