As part of our 1-v-1 video series, USC’s India Otto sat down to interview her teammate McKenzie Forbes. 

Here are five things to know from our conversation with the graduate transfer from Folsom, California.

#1 Inspired by USC’s Head Coach, Lindsay Gottlieb, McKenzie wants to be a basketball coach or work in the front office in the future.

When weighing in on what makes a good coach, McKenzie said x’s and o’s are important but “Coaching is a lot of relationship managing and people managing. I think you have to be a good people person and be able to build those relationships, but also in that same breath, you can’t be afraid to have people dislike you in moments. I think that’s a big part of leadership.”

#2 McKenzie says the trajectory of her career changed when she made the decision to transfer from Cal to Harvard.

 In order to transfer, she was forced to take a gap year and spend a lot of time in the gym. “I completely transformed my body and, going into the Harvard season, felt like I was a completely different player. Going to Harvard and playing in a more mid-major conference, I had the ball in my hands a lot more than I might have if I transferred to another Power 5. It really developed other parts of my game.”

#3 How does McKenzie think USC will do in the Women’s College Basketball Tournament?

“I’m not going to give a typical interview answer. I want a Final Four. We have that potential and capability. Like why not? Why not us? I think we have all the pieces.”

#4 Her older brother, Marcus, was her biggest mentor growing up.

“He was basically my trainer from Elementary school on until he went to college.”

#5 Fun facts about Forbes:

She can juggle and she was the quarterback of her Pop Warner football team. “I was slow but I could throw it!”

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

As part of our 1-v-1 video series, USC’s India Otto sat down to interview her teammate Aaliyah Gayles. Here are five things to know from our conversation with the redshirt freshman guard from Las Vegas.

#1 Aaliyah suffered from a near-death act of violence in 2022.

The incident taught her a lot about herself and the support around her. “[USC] Coach Lindsay [Gottlieb] was one of the first people to fly out there and come see me. That means a lot to me off the court.” 

#2 Her favorite USC memory is when she surprised her teammates after getting out of the hospital.

She left her walker at the door to show she was on the road to returning to the court. “That was my favorite memory because it was family. It was my first time being able to walk to you guys and see you practice.”

#3 There's a reason she wears #3.

#3 was her grandpa’s favorite number and a golden number in her life. Plus, AG3 has a nice ring to it. 

#4 She has a list of basketball GOAT’s:

Candace Parker, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Cason Wallace.

#5 There have been many celebrity appearances at USC’s games over the years, especially this season.

Aaliyah’s favorites include Will Ferrell, Kehlani, and Saweetie. And she hopes Lil Durk will come to watch a game soon.

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

As part of our 1-v-1 video series, USC’s India Otto sat down to interview teammate JuJu Watkins. 

Here are five things to know from our conversation with the freshman phenom from LA.

#1 JuJu defines her purpose as wanting to inspire others to not place limits on themselves.

Her advice to younger athletes is to “take a step back and just realize how grateful you are to be around so many great people and be in an environment where you’re able to have an impact on others. And don’t take that for granted any day.” She recommends “just always being in constant awe of how far you’ve come.”

#2 JuJu is self-reflective when it comes to the impact of her growing social media fame.

"People are always going to have something to say, so I think just taking that mindset that you can’t be perfect and everybody’s always going to have an opinion on something.”

#3 An LA native, JuJu says the state of basketball in LA is “just booming right now.”

“The Pac-12 and LA is just amazing, and I’m just glad that I’m able to be a part of that and feel the atmosphere every night.”

#4 JuJu is known for her drip.

Her favorite brands are Rick Owens, Alexander Wang, and Nike. And if she could have dinner with any three people (dead or alive), she would choose Drake, Bob Marley, and Beyonce. 

#5 JuJu’s favorite piece of advice:

“To whom much is given. Much is required.”

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

As part of our 1-v-1 video series, UCLA’s Camryn Brown sat down to interview her teammate Lauren Betts. 

Here are five things to know from our conversation with the sophomore from Centennial, Colorado.

#1 Betts was the nation’s No. 1 recruit coming out of high school, an experience that taught her the importance of having a good mindset.

“I try to not put too many expectations on myself, I think that adds a lot of pressure. Obviously, I’m surrounded by amazing players and coaches, so I’m just trying to learn from everybody.

#2 Lauren transferred from Stanford to UCLA after her freshman season. When asked about the hardest part of the transfer process she said, “The reactions to when I entered the portal would have to be the hardest. Just trying to not listen to what other people were saying. But it was a huge [decision], so I went to my mom’s house and blocked out the entire world for a few weeks.”

#3 On the best advice she’s been given about life on the big stage: “Staying where my feet are. Just staying present, not comparing myself to anybody in any type of way.”

#4 Lauren shared her perspective on how she’s grown throughout the last year.

“I can do hard things. I’ve built a lot of confidence. I just know when things go low, I can get myself out of that situation, out of that mindset. As long as I’m surrounded by the right people, I can do whatever.”

#5 Lauren is a big Disney fan. If she had to make a starting five out of Disney characters, she would pick Sully from Monster’s Inc., Hercules, Merida from Brave, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Moana (as point guard of course).

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

As part of our 1-v-1 video series, UCLA’s Camryn Brown sat down to interview her teammate Gabriela Jaquez.

Here are five things to know from our conversation with the sophomore forward from Camarillo, California.

#1 Playing basketball at UCLA has been Gabriela's lifelong dream. She often reminds herself of that, especially during challenging moments.

“When it gets hard, I just think back to the times where I dreamed of this. If your 12-year-old self could see you doing this, she would be so proud and so happy and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

#2 Gabriela’s older brother, Jaime Jaquez Jr., played basketball at UCLA and now plays for the Miami Heat in the NBA. She has learned a lot by watching his calm demeanor on the court.

His advice to her? “You have to be so good that your coach can’t take you off the floor.”

#3 The LA native, recognizes the impact of having both UCLA and USC ranked in the top-10 this year. 

“I think it’s really amazing for Southern California basketball, but also women’s basketball as a whole.”

#4  She is known for being the fashionista of the team. If she could swap closets with anyone, she’d pick Hailey Bieber, Sofia Richie, and Kendall Jenner. But she has her eyes on teammate Kiki Rice’s Jordan shoe collection.

 #5 Jaquez has a strict pregame ritual routine going into games.

“I do the same things. I’m always first to sprint in line after we warm up and smile the biggest smile to my coaches.”

Watch the full conversation on the Just Women’s Sports YouTube channel.

College basketball is giving viewers must-see matchups to finish 2023 on a high note.

Conference play is in full swing and every game counts. This weekend’s action is full of battles between ranked teams and matchups we could see again come March and April.

Here are the top five NCAA women’s basketball games of the weekend, in order of schedule.

No. 10 Baylor @ No. 5 Texas

These undefeated Texas teams have been putting on a show early in the 2023-24 season. The Longhorns have put up five 100-point games in their 13 games played, while the Bears have posted two.

Both Baylor (11-0) and Texas (13-0) have beaten fearsome opponents, but Baylor’s ranked victories stand out. The Bears have taken down then-No. 4 Utah and then-No. 24 Miami. The Longhorns beat UConn on Dec. 3 at the Jimmy V Classic but have not faced a ranked opponent since then.

Both teams enter this matchup with confidence after significant wins in their most recent games. Texas almost doubled their previous opponent in scoring, beating Jackson State, 97-52, and Baylor topped South Florida, 73-50. With such high rates of offensive production between these Big 12 rivals, it could be anyone’s game.

2 p.m. ET Saturday — FOX

No. 12 Utah @ No. 8 Colorado

These Pac-12 teams have been mainstays in the AP Top 25 all season, and this matchup should reflect that. Four Buffaloes average double-digits in scoring, and they are overall a higher-scoring team than the Utes. But Utah’s Alissa Pili is a force to be reckoned with.

Utah (10-2) presented undefeated No. 1 South Carolina with its toughest challenge of the season so far. A high-scoring outing from Pili and a quality defensive showing like the Utes’ matchup with the Gamecocks could lift them over Colorado (10-1). But they have to get through the Buffaloes’ freshman trio of Frida Formann, Aaronette Vonleh and Jaylyn Sherrod first.

3 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

No. 6 USC @ No. 2 UCLA

Both USC (10-0) and UCLA (11-0) have steamrolled their way through the early season. Both squads are undefeated, and both are putting up high numbers on the scoreboard.

The Bruins have played a notably tougher schedule than the Trojans — UCLA has topped three ranked opponents since the season began, while USC has faced just one ranked team. But that hasn’t stopped the Trojans from winning in style.

USC freshman JuJu Watkins ranks second in the NCAA in average points per game. She puts up an astronomical 26.8 points per game, and she leads her team in assists and steals as well. But the Bruins starting five all average double-digit scoring, with Lauren Betts and Charisma Osborne averaging 16.9 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. This southern California rivalry will bring the offensive power that viewers crave from young rising talent and veteran players.

8 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

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UConn is finding its footing after a shaky start to the season. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

No. 15 UConn @ No. 18 Marquette

After their shakiest start to a season in decades, the Huskies are climbing their way back up the poll right in time for conference play. The Golden Eagles are experiencing the opposite start to their slate. After appearing on the AP Top 25 for just one week last season, Marquette has been near-constant presence this year after the best start to a season in program history.

Entering Sunday’s contest, UConn (9-3) has dropped three early games, and Marquette (12-0) is undefeated. The Golden Eagles rarely find themselves in this position against their conference rivals, but their Liza Karlen is putting up numbers rivaling those of Player of the Year candidate Paige Bueckers. UConn is Marquette’s toughest challenge yet, but the Golden Eagles should not be overlooked.

1 p.m. ET Sunday — SNY

No. 13 Notre Dame @ Syracuse

While the Irish are the only ranked team in this contest, the ACC matchup is still worth a watch. Notre Dame and Syracuse are 9-1 and 10-1, respectively, and the game could be close.

The Orange’s only loss so far came at the hands of then-No. 20 Maryland, and the Irish fell to then-No. 6 South Carolina. Notre Dame has played more intimidating opponents than Syracuse, including then-No. 20 Tennessee, but the Orange have beaten most of their opponents handily, some by almost 50 points.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, watching Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo and Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair go up against each other in a conference match should be quality basketball.

2 p.m. ET Sunday — ACC Network

As the new year approaches, the college basketball season is heating up, and so is the player of the year race.

The Naismith Player of the Year award recognizes the best players in NCAA men’s and women’s basketball. Several players on the 50-player watchlist have lived up to their billing. One in particular has done even more.

Here are Just Women’s Sports’ contenders in the player of the year race heading into 2024, in no particular order.

Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Not much more needs to be said here. Last year’s Naismith Award winner is putting on an even better show this season. At the time of publication, Clark averages a league-leading 30.5 points per game and is seventh in NCAA Division I in assists (7.4 per game). At her current pace, Clark could overtake Kelsey Plum’s college scoring record by February. And while she’s a high scorer, she also spreads the wealth around to her team.

In what could be her final year in the NCAA, Clark has also stepped up her defensive play. She’s gathered 91 defensive rebounds through 13 games played, and her turnover rate is at a career low.

For the second year in a row, Clark may well be the best all-around choice for player of the year.

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(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Alissa Pili, Utah

Few players on this list have taken their team on their backs the way Pili has. When she shoots, she rarely misses. When she defends, she gives her all.

Pili averages just under 25 points per game, good for fourth in D-I. She also has a 69.7 shooting percentage, the fifth-highest in the NCAA. And she is making 56.5% of her 3-pointers, which ranks first in the NCAA.

Pili’s WNBA potential has been debated. But after the show she’s been putting on this season, there’s no question that she could thrive in the pros. Her size, scoring ability and athleticism make her an ideal draft candidate in 2024 — and perhaps a player of the year candidate as well.

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(Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

JuJu Watkins, USC

The freshman guard is already making a huge impact for the Trojans. In the seven-week old college basketball season, Watkins has taken home six Pac-12 freshman of the week honors. And for good reason.

Watkins is averaging a staggering 26.8 points per game, placing her at second in D-I as a first-year player. She shoots over 46% from behind the arc, and she’s snagged 62 rebounds in her nine games played.

Before finishing her first semester of college, Watkins has cemented herself as a regular in USC’s starting lineup and as a favorite for national freshman of the year honors. And if she keeps it up, she could set her sights even higher.

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(M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Paige Bueckers, UConn

Bueckers started the 2023-24 season with something to prove. The redshirt junior guard had less than 50 college games under her belt due to injuries — a good amount lower than many other players in her year. But she hit the court without missing a beat.

The 21-year-old averages almost 19 points per game, shoots 48% from the three-point line and leads her team in points this season. Bueckers also averages more than three assists per game, and she’s snagged 23 steals in 12 games. She is stepping up her defensive game as well. So far, she’s batted a team-leading 16 blocks as a guard and she’s collected 50 defensive rebounds.

If she continues to heat up despite the pressure of leading a depleted UConn squad, she could play her way into the national award conversation.

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(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Aneesah Morrow, LSU

Morrow is another player whose all-around skillset is serving her well early in the 2023-24 slate. Her versatility is allowing her to shine at LSU after her transfer from DePaul in the offseason.

The 20-year-old forward makes her presence known on the scoresheet, averaging 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. But her excellence continues on the other side of the ball. Morrow leads the Tigers with 34 steals and 17 blocks in 13 games played.

Through many challenges LSU has faced this season, including a prolonged absence for star Angel Reese and the removal of former starter Kateri Poole from the team, Morrow has taken everything in stride and remained a consistent and reliable player for the Tigers.

Honorable mentions:

  • Cameron Brink, Stanford
  • Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
  • Deja Kelly, UNC
  • Ta’Niya Latson, Florida State
  • Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State

Texas guard Rori Harmon was absent Wednesday night from the Longhorns’ 97-52 win over Jackson State.

Head coach Vic Schaefer provided no comment on Harmon’s injury after the game, only telling reporters that it happened during the team shootaround earlier in the day. Harmon, who spent the game on the bench for the Longhorns, appeared to be wearing a brace on her right knee, and she also was walking with a limp.

The junior guard is set to undergo testing Thursday, after which the school will issue a news release on the severity of the injury.

“We’ll know more [Thursday],” Schaefer said. “I don’t really have anything for you right now.”

The coach added that he didn’t say much to the team about Harmon before the game.

“My heart hurts for the kids that are out,” Schaefer said. “These (other) kids deserve my best. I’m proud of my team. They really rose to the occasion.”

Harmon is one of the best two-way guards in the country, with UConn head coach Geno Auriemma even saying that she’s “the best player we’ve played against this year, by far,” after UConn’s 80-68 loss to Texas in early December.

She had 27 points, 13 assists in that game and helped her team hold UConn’s Paige Bueckers to 13 points.

This is not the first time Harmon has been sidelined with an injury. She missed the first five games of the 2022-23 season with a foot injury. But she has established herself as a skilled defender, and she is averaging a team-high 7.8 assists (second in the country) and 3.1 steals per game. She also is averaging 14.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, both good for second on the Texas roster.

“Ain’t nobody on our team play harder than Rori Harmon,” Schaefer told ESPN early in December. “She brings that to the table every day, every practice, every game, and that’s what impacts your team in such a positive way.”

South Carolina retained its spot atop the AP Top 25 women’s basketball poll Monday, receiving all 36 first-place votes.

It’s the seventh consecutive week that the Gamecocks have held the top spot.

The top 10 remained unchanged due to a light schedule ahead of the holidays. Ohio State, who lost to UCLA by six points, dropped four spots to No. 17. West Virginia, meanwhile, entered the top 25 for the first time since 2021. The Big 12 Conference now has five teams in the poll.

The Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC are the only conferences to have every school still have a winning record.

Conference play will begin starting this week. UCLA will play USC, Colorado will face Utah and Baylor will play Texas on Saturday. Then on Sunday, No. 18 Marquette will play No. 15 UConn.

The poll was released on Christmas for the seventh time, with the last Christmas poll coming in 2017. Other years were 1979, 1983, 1995, 2000 and 2006.

Caitlin Clark once again made history Thursday, recording 35 points in her 13th career triple-double in Iowa’s 98-69 win over Loyola Chicago.

She finished the game with 35 points, 17 rebounds and 10 assists. It’s her third triple-double with at least 35 points, and her fifth 30-point triple-double, which is the most in D-I history. It was also the second triple-double in Division I women’s basketball history with at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists, joining LSU’s Cornelia Gayden, who accomplished the feat 1995.

Sabrina Ionescu remains the all-time D-I leader in triple-doubles, with 26 during her time at Oregon.

“I knew we were going to make some bunnies,” Clark said when asked if she was concerned about getting her last assist. “Ten assists is all because of my teammates. I’m thankful for them, and for Coach Bluder for allowing me to get (the triple-double). It’s always cool when you get one of those.”

Clark is making her way up the all-time scoring list, now with 3,114 points. She’s set to pass fellow Iowan Lorri Bauman, who starred for Drake from 1980-84 with 3,115 points, who is sixth on the list. Both are natives of Des Moines.

It was also Clark’s ninth career game leading both teams in points, rebounds and assists. She sits one back from Stanford’s Nicole Powell (2000-04) for the most such games by a player since the 1999-2000 season.

“She’s really hard to play against,” Loyola coach Allison Guth said. “Her range is insane. I’ve seen teams try to box-and-one her, send two players at her. And she can do it all. We were going to stay pretty pragmatic to what we did, and try to slow them down with our pressure. Once they lit that up, it hurt us defensively.”