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‘Special’ JuJu Watkins ties Lisa Leslie freshman record

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(Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

USC freshman JuJu Watkins is continuing on her historic pace for the season.

On Wednesday, Watkins had 31 points and 12 rebounds in No. 8 USC’s 71-70 win over Penn State. With the Trojans down six to Penn State with two minutes left, Watkins scored seven straight points to win the game.

While her performance was huge for the Trojans as they avoided the upset, it also made history in the process. It was her third 30-point game of the season, tying Lisa Leslie for the most such games by a freshman in school history, per ESPN Stats & Info. And that’s just five games into the season.

“She’s special,” head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said of Watkins. “There’s no more adjectives I can use.”

“She keeps showing me new things. The most telling thing is how much her teammates freaking love her, because when she gets knocked down and battered, they’re going to play better, because they understand how hard she works and what a great teammate she is.”

And perhaps her best points of the night came right before the half, as Watkins drained a half-court buzzer beater to pull the Trojans even with the Nittany Lions.

“I think it just goes back to the team,” Watkins said when asked how she stays in rhythm. “They put so much trust in me. Even when I’m turning the ball over — tonight wasn’t great for me — but they still believed in me and continued to empower me.”