The Sports Report: USC falls to Connecticut in the NCAA tournament
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The Sports Report: USC falls to Connecticut in the NCAA tournament

Howdy, I’m your host, Austin Knoblauch, filling in for Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: Not so fast, freshman.

JuJu Watkins propelled USC to a meteoric, magical, mesmerizing one-year rise to get back into the national championship conversation after decades of irrelevance. Paige Bueckers, Connecticut’s senior guard, ended it.

Bueckers starred in UConn’s 80-73 win over top-seeded USC in the Portland 3 Regional final Monday at Moda Center with 29 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, reasserting UConn’s position as an inevitable dominant force in the sport. The Huskies (33-5) return to the Final Four to face top-seeded Iowa on Friday in Cleveland. The Hawkeyes won the Albany 2 Region on Monday 94-87 over defending champion Louisiana State.

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UConn played in 14 consecutive Final Fours before last season’s disappointment while the Trojans were mired in anonymity before Watkins chose her hometown school over established powers. When the nation’s top-ranked recruit committed to USC, the Trojans were coming off a 12-16 season in coach Lindsay Gottlieb’s first season.

Less than a year-and-a-half later, the Trojans played in their first Elite Eight since 1994. Less than a month ago, they celebrated their first Pac-12 title since 2014. They were in back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since 2006 with more almost guaranteed to come.

Even if it felt like unfinished business Monday, this is why Watkins chose her hometown school — for moments like this.

“Everything and more,” Watkins said of whether the season lived up to her hopes. “Of course, we fell short in the end. But like Lindsay said, it’s been a great ride. I have the best teammates in the world. Just glad that …”

She cut herself off as tears welled in her eyes and she covered her face with her hands.

USC’s first All-American since Tina Thompson in 1997 used her yellow jersey to wipe away tears as she walked through the handshake line. UConn coach Geno Auriemma and Bueckers each wrapped Watkins into tight embraces to whisper encouragement.

Continue reading here

USC-Connecticut box score

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DODGERS

Dodgers starting pitcher James Paxton delivers against the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 8-3 win Monday at Dodger Stadium.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

From Jack Harris: After the hysteria of home-opening weekend, one that culminated with Sunday’s dramatic win against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers’ performance Monday night felt much more like a routine, weekday work shift.

There was little flash. Not much pizzazz. But, behind a scoreless five-inning start from James Paxton and back-breaking three-run home run from Teoscar Hernández in the sixth, there was plenty of substance in an 8-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Paxton epitomized the victory in his team debut, working in and out of trouble to help the Dodgers (5-2) protect an early lead.

Signed to an incentive-laden $7 million deal this offseason, Paxton put nine runners on base in his 97-pitch outing (four hits, five walks). He retired the side in order only once, letting runners reach scoring position in three of the other four innings.

“I didn’t really feel like sharp,” Paxton said. “Five walks, I was kind of in and out of good rhythm.”

Continue reading here

Dodgers-Giants box score

MLB scores

MLB standings

USC MEN’S BASKETBALL

USC coach Andy Enfield paces the sideline during a game against Eastern Washington at Galen Center in November.

USC coach Andy Enfield paces the sideline during a game against Eastern Washington at Galen Center in November.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

From Thuc Nhi Nguyen: After 11 years at USC, men’s basketball head coach Andy Enfield has left for the same position at Southern Methodist, the Mustangs announced Monday.

Enfield led the Trojans to rarely seen success on the court, including their first Elite Eight in 20 years in 2021, but failed to inspire the USC fan base. The team’s 95 wins in the previous four years were a school record before an injury-riddled 15-18 campaign ended USC’s streak of four consecutive 20-win seasons. Enfield ranks third on USC’s all-time wins list with a 220-147 record.

USC athletic director Jennifer Cohen thanked Enfield for his tenure and announced that a national search for a new head coach is under way.

“There is no ceiling to what our program can achieve, and I look forward to introducing our next head coach,” Cohen wrote.

Continue reading here

CLIPPERS

Russell Westbrook controls the ball during a game between the Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers on March 27.

Russell Westbrook controls the ball during a game between the Clippers and Philadelphia 76ers on March 27.

(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

From Chuck Schilken: Russell Westbrook does not like it when his name is disrespected.

The Clippers point guard has made himself perfectly clear on the matter.

Perhaps opposing fans just haven’t been paying attention.

Or, much more likely, they have and are using that information in an attempt to get inside the former league MVP’s head.

During halftime of the Clippers’ game in Charlotte on Sunday, Westbrook confronted a man sitting near courtside wearing a Hornets jersey and a light-blue balloon hat. ESPN Charlotte reporter Jeremy Grandison tweeted a video of Westbrook giving the man a tongue-lashing (warning: the video contains profanity).

Continue reading here

NBA scores

NBA standings

ANGELS

Angels star Mike Trout runs the bases after hitting a home run in the fourth inning Monday against the Miami Marlins.

Angels star Mike Trout runs the bases after hitting a home run in the fourth inning Monday against the Miami Marlins.

(Marta Lavandier / Associated Press)

From the Associated Press: Mike Trout hit two solo homers and the Angels rallied from an early four-run deficit and beat the Miami Marlins 7-4 on Monday.

Trout’s second shot — a 473-foot blast in the sixth — landed in the walkway high above the wall in left-center field. It was Trout’s 26th multihomer game. The two blasts also put him at 371 in his career, surpassing Gil Hodges for 81st on the all-time list.

“That’s probably one of the better balls I’ve hit, just like barreled it, and actually seen it go out instead of running around the bases,” Trout said. “Just trying to get back to myself and today kind of got back to that.”

Trout’s bid for a third homer ended when Miami reliever Tanner Scott (0-2) walked him to load the bases in the eighth. Brandon Drury then reached on a fielder’s choice that scored Anthony Rendon from third and snapped a 4-4 tie.

Continue reading here

Angels-Marlins box score

KINGS

Winnipeg’s Cole Perfetti celebrates after the Jets score past Kings goaltender Cam Talbot.

Winnipeg’s Cole Perfetti celebrates after the Jets score past Kings goaltender Cam Talbot during the Kings’ 4-3 loss Monday night.

(Darcy Finley / NHLI via Getty Images)

From the Associated Press: Cole Perfetti scored twice and Kyle Connor contributed a trio of assists as the Winnipeg Jets ended a six-game losing skid with a 4-3 victory over the Kings on Monday.

The Jets went on the game’s first power play midway through the third period with the score tied 3-3. Perfetti, a healthy scratch for the last two games, fired a low shot past Kings goalie Cam Talbot two seconds after the man advantage expired.

“I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. It has been tough the last little bit,” Perfetti said of sitting out. “I just tried to come to work every day with a positive mindset and be a good teammate.

“If an opportunity presented itself, I just wanted to be ready. An opportunity came tonight, and I just tried whatever I could to seize the moment.”

Continue reading here

Kings-Jets summary

NHL scores

NHL standings

MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Men’s bracket

Men’s schedule
All times Pacific

FINAL FOUR
Saturday
No. 11 North Carolina State vs. No. 1 Purdue, 3:09 p.m., TBS
No. 4 Alabama vs. No. 1 UConn, 5:49 p.m., TBS

Monday:
Championship (Glendale, Ariz.), TBS

WOMEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Women’s bracket

Women’s schedule
All times Pacific

FINAL FOUR
Friday
No. 3 North Carolina State vs. South Carolina, 4 p.m., ESPN
No. 3 Connecticut vs. Iowa, 6 p.m., ESPN

Championship: Sunday, noon (Cleveland), ABC

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1939 — Ralph Guldahl beats Sam Snead by one stroke to capture the Masters golf tournament.

1969 — Toronto center Forbes Kennedy sets a Stanley Cup playoff record for most penalties in one game with 8.

1978 — Czech tennis star Martina Navratilova wins her first WTA Tour Championship.

1980 — Wayne Gretzky becomes the youngest player to reach 50 goals at 19 years and 2 months of age.

1983 — New York Islander Mike Bossy becomes the first player to score 60 or more goals in three consecutive seasons.

1984 — Georgetown, led by junior center Patrick Ewing and freshman forward Reggie Williams, beats Houston 84-75 to win the NCAA championship in Seattle. Houston becomes the second team to lose in two consecutive finals.

1985 — Edmonton C Wayne Gretzky sets an NHL record with his 34th career hat trick.

1986 — The 3-point field goal, at 19 feet, 9 inches, is adopted by the NCAA.

1989 — 8th NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship: Tennessee beats Auburn, 76-60.

1990 — UNLV pounds Duke 103-73 to win its first NCAA championship and extend the Blue Devils’ streak to eight Final Four appearances without a title. The Runnin’ Rebels become the first team to score more than 100 points in a championship game and the 30-point margin is the largest ever.

1995 — Connecticut caps an unbeaten season by defeating Tennessee 70-64 for the NCAA women’s championship. The Huskies, 35-0, become the winningest basketball team for one season in Division I.

2000 — Connecticut wins its second women’s national championship with a 71-52 victory over Tennessee. The top-ranked Huskies beat No. 2 Tennessee for the second time in three meetings this season.

2001 — New York Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens becomes American League all-time strikeout leader.

2001 — Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki has 2 hits and becomes first Japanese position player to play in a regular season MLB game.

2001 — 63rd NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship: Duke beats Arizona, 82-72.

2003 — At 27 years, 249 days Texas Rangers infielder Alex Rodriguez becomes the youngest MLB player to hit 300 home runs.

2005 — Bubba Stewart becomes first African-American to win a major motor sports event when he takes out the Monster Energy AMA Supercross C’ship event in Irving, Texas.

2007 — The Florida Gators keep their stranglehold on the college basketball world with an 84-75 victory over Ohio State for their second straight national championship. The Gators are the first team to repeat since Duke in 1991-92.

2010 — Basketball superstar Kobe Bryant signs a three-year contract extension with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers worth $87 million.

2011 — The Detroit Red Wings clinch their 20th straight playoff berth with a 4-3 victory over Nashville. The Red Wings extend the longest active playoff streak among North America’s four major professional sports and extend their NHL record with 11 straight seasons with 100 points.

2012 — Doron Lamb scores 22 points as Kentucky wins its eighth men’s national championship, holding off Kansas for a 67-59 victory.

2013 — Shoni Schimmel scores 24 points and giant-slaying Louisville claims another big upset, beating second-seeded Tennessee 86-78 and earning the school’s second trip to the Women’s Final Four.

2014 — The Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Lakers 107-102 to give the Lakers their 50th loss of the season. The last time the Lakers had 50 or more losses was 1974-75 (30-52).

2016 — Villanova advances to the national championship game with the biggest margin of victory in Final Four history, overwhelming Oklahoma in a resounding 95-51 victory. The margin topped 34-point Final Four wins by Cincinnati over Oregon State in 1962 and Michigan State over Penn in 1979.

2017 — 36th NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship: South Carolina defeats Mississippi State, 67-55.

2018 — Pernilla Lindberg makes a 30-foot birdie putt on the eighth extra hole to win the ANA Inspiration for her first professional victory. Lindberg finishes off Inbee Park on the par-4 10th, the fourth playoff hole at Mission Hills.

2018 — Villanova wins its second men’s national championship in three years after a 79-62 victory over Michigan. Donte DiVincenzo comes off the bench to score 31 points for the Wildcats. Villanova wins all six games by double digits over this tournament run, joining Michigan State (2000), Duke (2001) and North Carolina (2009) in that company.

2019 — OKC guard Russell Westbrook becomes 2nd player in NBA history to have 20+ points, rebounds and assists in a game; records 20-20-21 in 119-103 win over LA Lakers.

2023 — Caitlin Clark scores 41 points in the Final Four for Iowa against South Carolina.

Compiled by the Associated Press

And finally

Mike Trout’s 473-foot home run in the Angels’ win over the Miami Marlins was truly spectacular. Check out his mammoth hit here.

Until next time…

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.

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