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Thursday July 30th, 2015 10:11AM

Saint Joseph's beats Georgia 67-57 in first round

By The Associated Press
STORRS, Conn. -- Erin Shields is enjoying her second NCAA tournament trip to Gampel Pavilion a lot more than the first one.

Saint Joseph's senior guard had 18 points and seven rebounds to lead the Hawks (23-9) to a 67-57 win over eighth-seed Georgia in a first-round game Sunday night.

A year ago, Shields scored just five points and was just 2 for 14 from the field from a loss to Vanderbilt, a game that also was played in Storrs.

"I felt better this year," she said. "Coming into the game, coach said, `You've got to be ready to shoot.'"

She hit five of her first nine shots, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

Ashley Robinson had 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Hawks, who won in the tournament for the first time in 14 years. Natasha Cloud added 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

"Our kids played with a lot of intensity and emotion," said Hawks coach Cindy Griffin. "With each shot we made, we got more and more confident."

Erika Ford had 16 points to lead Georgia, which finishes the season at 20-12. Merritt Hempe added 13 points and Krista Donald finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds.

The Hawks will play either top-seeded UConn or Prairie View A&M in the second round Tuesday.

Saint Joseph's led by eight points at halftime and was up 42-32 early in the second half after a 3-pointer by Robinson.

But the Bulldogs got back into the game with a 14-4 run.

A foul shot by Merritt Hempe tied the game at 46, and a 3-point shot by Tiaria Griffin midway through the half gave Georgia a 50-49 lead.

That was the Lady Bulldogs only lead of the second half.

Hempe fouled on the other end after a made basket by Cloud, giving the ball back to Saint Joseph's. Robinson was then fouled and hit two free throws, part of a 10-0 run that put the Hawks back up by nine.

"During that period, we just dissolved," said Georgia coach Andy Landers. "We didn't defend very well. We didn't go after loose balls or rebound very well."

A jumper by Cloud made it 65-54 with less than 4 minutes left and Georgia could not mount another challenge.

The Hawks shot 46 percent from the floor and held Georgia to just 34 percent.

Saint Joseph's got off to a quick start, using a 10-4 run to take a 17-9 lead.

Georgia cut the deficit to three points on a jumper by Ford. But the Hawks scored the final five points of the half and took a 38-30 lead into intermission.

Saint Joseph's was one of three Atlantic 10 teams in the tournament and the last one standing. Fordham, the conference tournament champion, lost by a point to California on Saturday. Dayton, the regular-season champion, lost to Florida on Sunday.

Cloud also had four assists Sunday, giving her 237 for the year, just four shy of the school's single-season record.
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