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Sunday, July 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Albanez gives Gonzaga quality minutes

Keani Albanez, right, is Gonzaga's top free-throw shooter and the team leader in points per minute. (Dan Pelle)
Keani Albanez, right, is Gonzaga's top free-throw shooter and the team leader in points per minute. (Dan Pelle)
Chris Derrick

She leads Gonzaga in points per minutes played and is the team’s fourth-leading scorer overall, but she’s never started a game.

She leads the Bulldogs (12-4 overall) in free-throw shooting and was No. 1 in 3-pointers made until Taelor Karr hit 11 in GU’s last two games.

Her free-throw shooting is so good that while the rest of the team is shooting 58 percent from the line, she’s shooting 91 percent (19 of 21).

She averages only 14.6 minutes per game, seventh on the team. In 11 games, she has played 13 minutes or less.

Even with all these clues, casual GU fans may be stumped on her identity.

That’s all right with sophomore guard Keani Albanez, who is averaging 7.3 points per game but hasn’t scored more than eight in any of her last 11 games.

“Personally, I didn’t even know that, so I don’t expect fans to,” Albanez said about her scoring before a recent Gonzaga practice.

Albanez, of Santa Barbara, Calif., comes in to GU games to add a spark, whether with her 3-point shooting or her defensive intensity.

She scored a career-high 19 points against Missouri State on Nov. 20, and opened the season with back-to-back 17-point games, but she’s also played eight games in which she scored five points or less.

“I come off the bench, just giving the team whatever we need,” Albanez said. … “I’ve had games where I haven’t scored a lot, maybe two points, but I get defensive stops and that will be my game.”

Albanez played 20 minutes or more during four of Gonzaga’s first five games. Since then, her high was 18 minutes against Idaho.

“There are certain players who deserve to be out there and have more experience,” Albanez said. “So if I’m just cheering from the bench, I have no problem with that.”

Albanez said her highlight game was Nov. 11, at USC, when she scored 17 points during a win in front of about 40 friends and family members.

Albanez, who has four siblings, selected Gonzaga for its basketball atmosphere and the relative short flight from California to Spokane.

She said she struggled with normal freshman problems, including finding her role on the team and adjusting to the fast-paced college game. Albanez averaged 2.0 ppg in 31 games as a freshman.

“I want to progress,” she said. “I want to get better every year. I don’t know what it holds for me, but as hard as we as a team work, and myself, I feel we have a great future.”

Notes: Washington State’s Carly Noyes (Moses Lake) recorded her 400th career rebound last Friday against Arizona. Noyes is also four blocked shots shy of breaking Holly Zapel’s career record of 147. … Western Oregon junior guard Chantel Divilbiss (North Idaho College/Moscow High) is averaging 6.5 ppg and has shot 17 of 19 from the line.

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