VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Saint Joseph's women's basketball team put the Big 5 titles squarely in its own hands on Saturday as the Hawks topped Villanova, 63-60, at The Pavilion. The Hawks improve to 2-0 in the Big 5 with the win and 8-1 overall, as senior Erin Shields, junior Natasha Cloud and sophomores Ciara Andrews and Sarah Fairbanks combined for 55 of the team's 63 points.
Villanova (7-1) would fight back to take the lead, 60-59, on a jumper by Caroline Coyer with 2:03 to play, but Andrews answered back with a driving layup to put the Hawks up 61-60 at 1:48.
Following a defensive stop, Saint Joseph's would up its lead to 63-60 on an athletic jumper in the lane by Cloud at 1:08 as she avoided an outstretched arm by the defender in midair.
The Hawks' defense stepped up again as Fairbanks stole the ball in the paint on defense. Despite not converting on its possession, Saint Joseph's would run the clock down. Villanova would miss a trio of shots before a jump ball gave them possession with 0.8 seconds to go. A desperation shot off the inbound failed to reach the basket as the Hawks claimed their fifth-straight Big 5 win and pulled even with Villanova for all-time Big 5 wins with 100.
The Hawks came out hot in the first half, running out to a 15-2 lead less than five minutes in. Led by nine points from Shields, Saint Joseph's took a 13-point lead on a layup by Fairbanks at 15:38, while its defense held Villanova to just 1-of-5 from the floor and turned the ball over three times during that stretch.
The Wildcats responded with a 17-4 run to tie the game on a layup by Emily Leer at 6:15 as the Hawks went cold from floor, shooting just 1-of-8 and turning the ball over four times during the near nine minute stretch.
The two teams would trade baskets from there as they headed into halftime tied at 28-28.
Villanova took control of the second half, using an 8-0 run to open a 36-28 advantage on a layup by Devon Kane 2:19 into play.
Saint Joseph's countered with an 11-2 run to gain its first lead of the half, 39-38 on a pair of free throws by Shields at 14:28. The Hawks would give up the lead shortly after before rallying for the victory.
As a team, Saint Joseph's shot 48.2 percent overall (27-of-56), hit 4-of-9 from three-point range and 5-of-8 from the foul line. The Hawks also finished with a 32-29 edge in rebounding and caused 13 Villanova turnovers.
Individually, Shields had a game-high 15 points and added six rebounds, while Cloud finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Andrews finished 7-of-12 from the field for a career-best 14 points, while Fairbanks added 3 points, four rebounds and a pair of assists.
At the other end, Leer, Coyer and Taylor Holeman each had 12 points as the Wildcats shot 43.9 percent overall, 31.6 percent from behind the arc (6-of-19) and 4-of-6 from the foul line.
Saint Joseph's returns to action Tuesday as it hosts Hofstra at 7 p.m.