St. Joe's women beat Georgia in NCAA opener

Saint Joseph's head coach Cindy Griffin celebrates at the end of the second half. (Jessica Hill/AP)

STORRS, Conn. - Erin Shields scored a team-high 18 points Sunday as ninth-seeded St. Joseph's picked up a 67-57 win over No. 8 Georgia in the first round of the NCAA women's basketball tournament at Gampel Pavilion.

"It was a well-fought game," St. Joseph's coach Cindy Griffin said. "I thought our kids played with a lot of intensity, a lot of emotion. They executed the game plan as well as any other situation that we've had this year."

St. Joseph's reward is a matchup with the overwhelming tournament favorite, top-ranked Connecticut. The Huskies, who advanced with an 87-44 victory over Prairie View A&M, will host the Hawks Tuesday night at 7.

The Hawks (23-9) led by eight points at halftime, but a 15-6 run early in the second half gave the Bulldogs a one-point lead with 11 minutes, 25 seconds to play.

That's when Natasha Cloud took over. The junior guard tallied nine of her 13 points down the stretch to propel St. Joseph's.

"At that point, Coach had dug into me a little bit," Cloud said. "She told me that I needed to shoot the ball, so I did it and we made plays."

Twelve of Shields' points came from behind the arc. Her fourth three-pointer of the night, which came with 9:46 left in the first half, was her 92d of the season and pushed her atop the Hawks' single-season list in that category.

"We have two very good guards," Griffin said. "Erin is very unassuming because she's 5-foot-5, but she's quicker than any kid out there and she's tougher than most kids out there. Natasha is also a fighter and they play off of each other."

Ashley Robinson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks.

The win was St. Joseph's first in the NCAA tournament since 2000. Last season in the Storrs subregional, the Hawks fell to Vanderbilt, 60-54.

"It means a lot - it's been an unbelievable experience," Shields said. "I think being here last year, getting the loss, you know how that feels now. We were ready to come in here and show what we have."

Erika Ford led Georgia (20-12) with 16 points.