College Hoops

USC’s special run ends, as JuJu Watkins, Lindsay Gottlieb take it in

USC’s special run ends, as JuJu Watkins, Lindsay Gottlieb take it in

Losing is supposed to hurt, especially in the Elite Eight. Losing one stop short of the Final Four is arguably more painful than losing in the Final Four itself or the national championship game. Almost making it to the final weekend of the college basketball season, only to watch another team celebrate, carries a unique wound for college basketball players and coaches. Part of the emotions felt by USC coach Lindsay Gottlieb and superstar player JuJu Watkins was connected to that pain. Yet, as much as losing hurts, the emotions flowing in Portland on Monday night also came from a realization of how far this team climbed in such a short period of time. In one season, 18-year-old JuJu Watkins — with Gottlieb, Beth Burns, a lot of other hard-working assistant coaches and trainers, and a tough, resilient group of role players — rose to the top tier of the sport. They played Geno Auriemma and mighty UConn for a spot in the Final Four on national television with the whole nation riveted by an intense, thrilling competition. USC is now a big-time, center-stage program in women’s basketball. An appreciation of the journey — and the transformation — was also why you saw JuJu and Gottlieb so emotional in their postgame press conference. Let’s go into that and capture the deep feelings this wonderful team created this season at USC:

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