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Haiden Palmer was one of three Bulldogs to score in double-figures Sunday.
Courtesy: Torrey Vail

Albanez and Palmer Lead Zags To 63-52 Win Over USC

Courtesy: Gonzaga Athletics
          Release: 11/11/2012
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. - The Gonzaga University women's basketball team closed out its opening two-game California roadtrip 2-0 after earning a hard-fought 63-52 victory at Pacific-12 Conference member USC Sunday afternoon.

"It is a great win to beat a team with a tradition in USC," explained an elated Kelly Graves after the game. "To come down to California and go 2-0 on our first roadtrip to start the year and to get a win today especially after how we looked on Friday really showed what character we have."

Gonzaga's win snapped a two-game losing skid to the Women of Troy, including a 58-51 setback at the McCarthey Athletic Center last season.

The Bulldogs first half against USC was in stark contrast to their opening 20 minutes at UC Riverside Friday. Gonzaga, who shot under 25 percent against the Highlanders and scored only 19 points, shot a blistering 56.7 percent (17-of-30) from the floor versus the Women of Troy, which helped it to a 37-22 halftime advantage.

Nine players helped the Zags to their 15-point advantage; including sophomore Keani Albanez who scored a first half high nine points on 4-of-7 shooting.

It was Albanez who sparked a Gonzaga 11-0 run early in the half when she drained a 3-pointer, only minutes after entering the game. She closed out the run with a layup to put the score at 23-4 at the 11:24 mark.

The Bulldogs defense was stellar in the opening half as well as they forced 14 USC turnovers and capitalized on those miscues scoring 14 points.

Gonzaga also held the Trojans field goal-less for over eight minutes and because of that was able to open up its 19-point edge.

The Zags largest lead in the first half was 22 points at 34-12 with 4:16 remaining but a 10-3 run by the Trojans to close out the half cut their advantage to 15.

The Trojans began the second half on tear, forcing the Bulldogs to turn the ball over five times in the first four minutes and used 10-4 spurt to get GU's lead to single-digits at 41-32 with 16:15 left in the contest.

Crucial shots by Albanez halted USC's momentum. The Santa Barbara, Calif., native, had eight points in the Zags 12-3 run that gave them some breathing room at 53-35 with 10:37 left. She drained two 3-pointers in the run and had a jumper.

Gonzaga wasn't out of the woods though as USC battled and got GU's lead back in single-digits at 61-52 with under 2:30 to play.

The Bulldogs stood tall, forcing USC's Cassie Harberts to miss two lay-ins down the stretch and, like they had on Friday, made the free throws that counted.

It was Taelor Karr that was composed on the line, sinking both free throws with 32 ticks on the clock to secure the 11-point victory.

For the game, the Zags shot 45.3 percent from the floor (24-of-53) and hit 62.5 percent (10-of-15) at the charity stripe.

Albanez led the Zags for the second-straight game, tying her career-high of 17 points. Junior Haiden Palmer added 13 points, while Karr chipped in 10.

"Keani was terrific," stated Graves of his sophomore guard. "She has got an amazing motor and when she is feeling it offensively man can she really get it going. I was really happy she did it in front of family and friends."

USC was led by Harberts with a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Gonzaga now returns to Spokane to host the University of Wisconsin in its home-opening contest Friday. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

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