Padilla hits big 3s, No. 7 USC outlasts Arizona 95-93 in double overtime

Updated Feb. 29, 2024 11:39 p.m. ET

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Seventh-ranked Southern California lost its star player, but not its composure.

Kayla Padilla hit a tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation, made another key 3 in the second overtime and No. 7 Southern California rallied after freshman JuJu Watkins fouled out to beat Arizona 95-93 on Thursday night.

“It's a character win and it's defining because we're trying to become an elite team nationally, and we know that's about more than one or two players,” USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb said.

The Wildcats (16-13, 8-9 Pac-12) were blown out by USC less than a month ago, but used a big run to take a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.


The Trojans (22-5, 12-5) fought back despite Watkins fouling out with less than two minutes left, scoring five points in the final 16 seconds to force overtime. Kaitlyn Davis hit a jumper after an offensive rebound on a missed free throw and Padilla hit a tying 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left after two more offensive boards.

“She's selfless in an unbelievable way, but doesn't lack confidence,” Gottlieb said. "She plays her role, doesn't hunt shots, but hits the big ones when we need them."

Neither team could take control until Padilla hit a corner 3 to put USC up 92-89 in the second overtime. Helena Pueyo made two free throws with 6.3 seconds left to pull the Wildcats within 94-93 and Rayah Marshall hit 1 of 2 free throws.

Arizona's Jada Williams had a good look at the buzzer, but her 3 clanged off the back of the rim.

Marshall led USC with 26 points and 11 rebounds, and Watkins had 20 before fouling out. Padilla had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3.

Pueyo had 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists to lead undermanned Arizona. Skylar Jones added 19 points.

“I think it was after the first overtime, every single player was eating gummies — they needed sugar and energy they were playing so hard,” Arizona coach Adia Barnes. “They gave everything for me. I'm proud of them.”

USC made 11 3s in the teams’ first meeting, an 81-64 win in Los Angeles earlier this month.

Arizona was a different team early in its final Pac-12 game against USC at McKale Center, buoyed by the home crowd and its first sweep of the Pac-12's Bay Area schools since 2001 last week.

Feeding off the energy, the Wildcats swarmed USC early, allowed the Trojans to claw back and took a 33-31 lead into halftime.

“They put so much pressure on you,” Gottlieb said. “They do a great job of that and I thought later in the game we were more aggressive in getting to the paint and making the right reads.”


The Trojans have a big front line and used it to their advantage against Arizona, racking up fouls and offensive rebounds.

USC had an 18-9 edge in offensive rebounds and scored 18 second-chance points — none bigger than the five in the final seconds of regulation. Arizona also had two players foul out and another who had four.

“The fouls and the offensive rebounds are the difference,” Barnes said. “They had 18 offensive rebounds and 50 points in the paint. That's the game right there and we shot a good percentage.”


USC: The Trojans struggled to find much of an offensive rhythm against Arizona until late and pulled out a gutty win with its star freshman watching from the bench.

Arizona: The Wildcats appeared to be in position to pull off a second top-10 victory in a week. Arizona faded late in regulation to allow USC to tie it and couldn't make the key plays down the stretch in the second overtime.


USC: Plays at Arizona State on Saturday.

Arizona: Hosts No. 8 UCLA on Saturday.


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