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Trojans Top Jayhawks in Second Round of NCAA Tournament


LOS ANGELES ( – S’Mya Nichols scored 22 points and Taiyanna Jackson set a program NCAA Tournament record with 18 rebounds on Monday night, but the Jayhawks fell to No. 1 seed USC 73-55 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Galen Center.


Nichols capped her brilliant freshman season topping the 500-point mark with her 22 points on Monday, while Jackson notched the 41st double-double of her career for second-most in program history.

Kansas got the USC lead down to one in the third quarter, but the Trojans went on a 24-6 run over the end of the third and start of the fourth to get the lead to 19 and secure the win for the hosts. National Freshman of the Year JuJu Watkins led USC with 28 points and 11 rebounds in their win.

The Jayhawks finished their 2023-24 campaign at 20-13, while USC, ranked No. 3 in the nation, moved to 28-5.

“I’m really proud of what this group has become and the development of our team this year, but also proud of the progress that our program has made over the last three years,” Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said following the game. “Tonight we played an exceptionally good team. I thought the difference in the game tonight was points off turnovers. We turned the ball over quite a bit early in the game and that enabled them to get off to a fast start.”

Watkins started hot from the floor, hitting three of her first four shots and scoring seven of the team’s first nine points. On the heels of Watkins’ start, the Trojans started 5 of 10 from the floor and 2 of 2 from deep to open up an early 12-7 lead at the game’s first media timeout. Jackson also had a strong start, posting four points and four rebounds in the game’s first five minutes to keep the Jayhawks hanging around.

Zakiyah Franklin hit a jumper out of the timeout to close the deficit to three at 12-9. But the Jayhawks didn’t score over the final four-plus minutes of the quarter and USC went on a mini 5-0 run to close the quarter with a 17-9 lead. Watkins picked up her second foul of the game with 2:02 left in the frame and headed to the bench.

USC extended its lead into double digits early in the second quarter. The Trojans got their lead up to 15 at the 8:07 mark of the quarter when Kayla Padilla knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 27-12. Kansas then held USC scoreless for more than four minutes and used five straight points from Nichols to cut the lead to 10 at 27-17, forcing a USC timeout.

The Trojans responded to the break and built the lead back to 14 at 33-19 when McKenzie Forbes knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:11 to play in the half. But Kansas finished the half strong, scoring the final five points of the half. First, Jackson scored a fast break layup off a pass from Holly Kersgieter to cut it to 33-21. Nichols then finished the half with an and-one, making a layup with four seconds left in the half and converting the free throw to make it 33-24 at the break.

Kansas shot 34.6 percent from the floor in the first half and converted 12 turnovers, which USC converted into 16 points and outscoring Kansas 16-0 in points off turnovers in the first half. Nichols led the way for Kansas in the first with 11 points, while Jackson had 11 boards and six points.

Both teams came out in the second half hot from the field. Kansas hit five of its first seven shots, while USC knocked down four of its first five over the first 4:10 of the second half. During that stretch, USC got its lead up to 12 at 43-31 after Forbes knocked down a 3-pointer. Kansas then answered back with three straight buckets, getting one apiece from Franklin, Nichols and Kersgieter. A Watkins free throw made it 44-37 with 4:55 left in the third at the media timeout.

After another 3-pointer from Forbes to make the lead 10, the Jayhawks answered back with a 9-0 run to cut the lead to one at 47-46 with 1:20 remaining in the third quarter. Kersgieter and Nichols combined for all nine points on the run with Kersgieter hitting two baskets and Nichols scoring five points off two buckets and a free throw. But Watkins, the first-team All-American, scored five straight points and Clarice Akunwafo hit one of two free throws to extend the lead back to seven at the end of the third at 53-46.

The Trojans continued to build their lead to start the fourth quarter and took a 62-48 lead with 6:12 to play in the final quarter on the heels of a 15-2 run to answer the 9-0 spurt from Kansas.

Jackson had 10 points and 18 rebounds, along with five assists in the loss, while, Kersgieter had nine points and seven rebounds.