STORRS, Conn. - For just the seventh time in program history, the Saint Joseph's women's basketball team is headed to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament as the ninth seeded Hawks downed eighth seed Georgia, 67-57, Sunday evening at Gampel Pavilion.
Saint Joseph's will face top-seeded 1/1 Connecticut on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Senior Erin Shields had a game-high 18 points, including four three-pointers to set the SJU single-season mark (92). Redshirt junior Ashley Robinson bolstered the posts with a 10-point, 10 rebound double-double to help the Hawks to their first Second Round appearance since 2000.
Leading by 10 early in the second half, Saint Joseph's saw its lead slowly trimmed as the Bulldogs used an 8-0 run to make it a 42-40 game in favor of SJU with 14:34 to go.
Georgia (20-12) would continue to push at the Hawks, taking a 49-48 lead on a three-pointer by Tiaria Griffin at 10:02.
The Hawks answered back quickly as junior Natasha Cloud drilled a jumper as the shot clock was winding down to put her squad ahead 50-49 with 9:30 to play.
From there, Saint Joseph's pushed away from the Bulldogs as Cloud sparked a 10-0 run for the Hawks. Robinson would cap the run with two of her 10 points on the night with a layup at 6:38 to make it 57-49.
Georgia would cut the deficit to six, 59-53, but Saint Joseph's answered back with a 6-1 run as Cloud put her team ahead 65-54 with under four minutes to play.Saint Joseph's would give up a three-pointer at 2:32, but its defense stymied Georgia in the final moments, holding the Bulldogs scoreless from there as a layup by Shields capped the win.
“It’s terrific. Not only is it great for Saint Joseph’s University and our program, but it’s also great for the Atlantic 10 Conference," said Saint Joseph's head coach Cindy Griffin. "It’s a stepping stone, and though we were very excited about winning the Atlantic 10 Tournament last year, this team wanted to take it a step further this year in getting to the tournament and winning a game. It’s huge.”
In the first half, the Hawks came out hot, hitting 15-of-40 from the field, including 4-of-8 from three-point range to run out to a 38-30 advantage by halftime.
Georgie held an early 5-4 lead, but a 13-4 run by the Hawks changed the tide to a 17-9 edge on a Shields three-pointer at 11:07.
Saint Joseph's would control the pace of play for much of the remainder of the half as it never allowed the Bulldogs to come any closer than three.
“It means a lot (to win tonight)," said Shields. "It’s been an unbelievable experience and I think being here last year and getting the loss we learned how that felt. We came in here to show what we have. Being a part of the program for my whole life, growing up at Saint Joseph’s, nothing feels better than representing your program and making them proud. I know we made Saint Joseph’s proud today.”
For the game, Saint Joseph's shot 46.4 percent from the field (26-of-56), and hit 5-of-10 from behind the arc and 10-of-14 from the foul line (71.4 percent). The Hawks were outrebounded 39-38, but tallied 15 second-chance points to Georgia's 12.
Individually, Cloud added 13 points to go with seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots. Sophomore Ciara Andrews added eight points and four rebounds in her first NCAA Tournament appearance, while classmate Sarah Fairbanks finished with eight points and four rebounds in a starting role. Senior Ilze Gotfrida had six points and three assists off the bench, while classmate Kelsey Berger chipped in with four points, two steals and three rebounds, including the final one of the game.
At the other end, Georgia was held to just 33.8 percent shooting overall (22-of-65), 35.3 percent from three-point range (6-of-17) and hit just 7-of-12 from the foul line (58.3 percent). Erika Ford led three Bulldogs in double figures with 16 points.
Game Notes: Saint Joseph's is the only remaining Atlantic 10 women's basketball team still in the NCAA Tournament...The Hawks are also the only Division I basketball team from Philadelphia still playing.