Things are about to get hotter in Mexico.
Sophomore guard Keani Albanez scored a career-high 19 points on Tuesday as Gonzaga raced past Missouri State 80-66 to open the Hardwood Tournament of Hope at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The victory earned the Bulldogs (5-0) a semifinal matchup at 6:30 tonight against seventh-ranked Louisville (4-0). The Cardinals dispatched Central Florida 94-73 in their opener as Sara Hammond had 15 points and eight rebounds.
Gonzaga fans should remember their last game against Louisville, when the Bulldogs won 76-69 to advance to the Elite Eight at the 2011 NCAA tournament.
Albanez, who scored 17 points in GU’s first two games this year, shot 6 for 9 from the floor, including 3 of 6 on 3-pointers, and 4 for 4 from the free-throw line.
Albanez also led a 14-0 run to end the first half as the Bulldogs broke from a 27-all tie. She hit a layup with 3 minutes, 5 seconds left for a 33-27 lead, followed 42 seconds later with a 3-pointer, and added a layup with 32 seconds left.
GU shot 7 of 11 on 3-pointers during the first half.
Gonzaga maintained a double-digit lead throughout the second half, building its lead as high as 21 points (62-41) with 10:45 left.
Gonzaga’s balanced scoring included 16 points apiece from junior guards Jazmine Redmon (Mead High) and Haiden Palmer and 12 points from junior center Stephanie Golden.
Redmon, who hit 4 of 4 on 3-pointers and led the team with five assists, also reached a career high for scoring.
Golden, who had a game-high three blocked shots, teamed with freshman guard/forward Chelsea Waters (Lewiston) for 13 rebounds. Waters’ seven rebounds were a career best.
Gonzaga finished with 21 points off turnovers.
The Bears’ only lead (17-15) came when Tyonna Snow hit a 3-pointer with 13:27 left in the first half. The Bulldogs answered with an 8-0 run as Albanez had two 3-pointers and Palmer hit a jumper.
The Bulldogs’ only other 5-0 start came during the 2008-09 season. That team went on to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Whitney Edie led the Bears (1-2) with seven rebounds and 16 points, hitting 7 of 13 from the floor.
In other tournament games, Oregon State (3-0) edged UC Santa Barbara 49-46 and Winthrop (2-1) slipped past Mississippi State 61-59.
North Idaho 83, Columbia Basin 61: Freshman guard Georgia Stirton had team highs of 17 points and five assists while leading the Cardinals (5-0) past the visiting Hawks (0-2) in nonconference play.
Stirton shot 8 of 13 from the floor and NIC finished 35 of 71. Kabri Emerson and Renae Mokrzyski combined for 22 points and 13 rebounds as the Cardinals won the rebounding edge 31-20.
Sierra Higheagle (Clarkston High) had a game-high 18 points for CBC, hitting 7 of 10 from the line, and Cassidy Phillips (Ferris) added 11 points.