Richmond, VA -- St. Joseph's jumped out of the gate with a quick 9-0 start, and for a few minutes, it looked like the Rhode Island Rams were outmatched. But a 25-point second quarter from the Rams helped them overcome a 3-point margin at the end of the first, as they enter halftime four points ahead of the Hawks.
Rhode Island point guard Charise Wilson came out firing, trying to dig her team out of the whole. The Hawks were content to let her try and take over; she started the game only 2 for 7 from the field. However, after her three-pointer with 2 minutes left in the first, she found her stroke.
In fact, the entire Rhode Island team found their stroke during the second quarter. Focusing more on getting the ball inside, the Rams tied the game up in the second period. After St. Joseph's adjusted, collapsing their defense, the Rams switched their strategy accordingly, letting the three-pointers fly; Rhode Island went 4-6 from beyond the arc, shooting 53% from the field in the second.
Despite the impressive shooting performance from the Rams, the Hawks stayed close with their ability to capitalize on offensive rebounds and a balanced offensive attack. The offensive duel between the Hawks' Ciara Andrews and Charise Wilson will continue into the second half, as the respective teams' leading scorers try to lead their team to a win.
Rhode Island opened up the scoring in the third period, leading by as many as 14 before taking a 13 point lead into the fourth quarter. After Charise Wilson went down with what looked like a serious knee injury, the Rams lost some of their fire, allowing the Hawks to close the gap and tie the game.
But eventually Wilson returned, and so did Rhode Island's fire, as they dashed St. Joseph's comeback hopes and sealed the 81-76 win, moving into the quarterfinals.
The Rams' Tayra Melendez, who had been active on defense during the first half with her length, came alive offensively, hitting two threes in a row. Wilson started off only 1-4, but made up for her poor shooting with her distribution efforts, racking up five assists in the third quarter.
Sarah Fairbanks and Chelsea Woods of the Hawks both ended the game with double-doubles, and their interior play in the fourth quarter, combined with guard Andrews' efficiency, helped St. Joe's narrow the lead to 2 points with 22 seconds left.
After Wilson missed one of her free throws, the Hawks had the ball in a one-possession game with 18 seconds left. However, Sarah Veilleux's three-point attempt with 12 seconds left came up short, and the game would get no closer.
The win marks the second upset of the day, and sets up the Rams for a date with the second seed St. Louis Billikens tomorrow.