PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – Gonzaga University sophomore Keani Albanez and junior Jazmine Redmon each scored a career-high and helped the Bulldogs take a 80-66 victory over Missouri State University Tuesday evening in their opening game of the Hardwood Tournament of Hope in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The 14-point win pushed the Zags record to 5-0 on the year and tied the program’s best start in school history. The only other time Gonzaga started 5-0 was in 2008-09; that team went to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Albanez, who has scored in double-figures in all but two contests, finished with 18 points, besting her career-high by one point. Redmon had her best offensive output of her career, scoring 16 points hitting 5-of-9 from the field, including a perfect 4-of-4 on 3-pointers.
It was the Bulldogs 3-point shooting and tenacious defense that led them to a 14-point halftime advantage. The Zags, who led 41-27 after 20 minutes, sank 7-of-11 from beyond the 3-point arc and forced the Lady Bears to turn the ball over 12 times and scored 11 points off the miscues.
It was a back-and-forth game early in the contest but with the 3-ball falling Gonzaga opened up a 23-17 advantage at the 11:18 mark. Albanez drained the first of her three first half 3-pointers to start a 6-2 run that gave the Zags their 6-point edge. After a layup by junior guard Haiden Palmer, Albanez again found nothing but net from beyond the arc.
Missouri State would battle back and tie the game at 27-27 with 4:27 remaining before intermission but the layup by the Lady Bears Hannah Wilkerson - which tied the game - was the last points they would score the rest of the half.
Gonzaga then used an all-important 14-0 run to close out the half and hold the double-digit lead. The Bulldogs forced the Lady Bears to turn the ball over three times down the stretch and miss five shots.
The Zag run saw four players score, including Albanez and junior Jazmine Redmon who each nailed a 3-pointer; the third for both in the first.
Albanez finished with 15 points in the first and Redmon chipped in nine.
Gonzaga continued to increase its lead steadily in the final half, even pushing it to 21 points at 62-41 at 10:45 on a layup by junior Stephanie Golden.
Missouri State mounted a comeback after Golden scored. The Lady Bears used a 10-0 run to slice the Bulldogs lead to 11 at the 8:53 mark and got the lead to 10 two minutes later when a bucket by Christina Shorter put the score at 69-59.
A crucial basket by redshirt freshman Shelby Cheslek, followed by four straight points by Palmer – in the form of a layup and jumper – gave the Zags back some breathing room at 75-59 with 4:02 remaining.
The Lady Bears were only able to get the lead back to 12 down the stretch.
The Zags would hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final 2:25 to seal the victory.
Beside Albanez and Redmon, Palmer and Golden scored in double-figures with 16 and 12, respectively.
Gonzaga closed the game shooting 46.8 percent (26-of-62), including 52.9 percent (9-of-17) on 3-pointers and was 68.4 percent (13-of-19) from the free throw line.
Missouri State (1-2) had three players in double-digits and was led by Whitney Edie with 16 points.
Gonzaga will now play No. 6/6 University of Louisville Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. PT in the second round of the tournament. The Cardinals defeated the University of Central Florida 94-73 earlier Tuesday.