STORRS — St. Joseph's isn't leaving Gampel Pavilion after the first round this year. Instead the Hawks will play No. 1 UConn in the second round on Tuesday night.
No. 9 St. Joseph's beat eighth-seeded Georgia 67-57 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night at Gampel. Last year, the Hawks lost to Vanderbilt in the first round.
"I'm excited," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "As a coach you want to coach against the best, and Geno's one of the best, if not the best. I'm excited about it. I don't know what our game plan is going to be right now...but I think it's an opportunity for us and to showcase St. Joseph's University."
Erin Shields scored 18 points, Natasha Cloud scored 13 and Ashley Robinson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who won their first NCAA Tournament game since 2000.
"It's been an unbelievable experience," Shields said. "Being here last year and getting a loss ... we were ready to come in here and show what we have. Nothing feels better than representing your program and making them proud, and I know we made St. Joe's proud today."
And that tournament win now gives the players a chance to end UConn's unbeaten season.
"As an athlete you want to play at the highest level, and you want to play against the best," Cloud said. "UConn is the best, the No. 1 team in the nation, and we're thankful and blessed for the opportunity."
Georgia took a 49-48 lead with over nine minutes to play, but St. Joseph's immediately answered with a 7-0 run. Cloud hit a jumper, Ashley Robinson made two free throws and Cloud hit a three-pointer with under eight minutes left to give the Hawks a 55-49 lead. Cloud iced the game with a jump shot with 3:12 left to get the lead back up to double digits, 65-54.
"Obviously we're disappointed with the way we played," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "I have nothing but compliments for St. Joseph's ... they kept us beat down for 40 minutes ... we didn't defend very well, we didn't go after loose balls or rebounds very well."
Georgia trailed 24-14 in the first half, but a 7-0 run got the Bulldogs back in the game. They could not get over the hump, trailing 38-30 at the half. After taking the lead in the second half, Georgia broke down once again.
"I felt like we had detrimental turnovers. Overall we beat ourselves; yes, they're a good team," said Georgia junior Krista Donald.
Donald scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Merritt Hempe scored 13 and Erika Ford led the Bulldogs with 16 points.Copyright © 2015, CT Now