STORRS, Conn. – The Saint Joseph's players proved to themselves they belonged in the NCAA tournament in the school's first appearance in 13 years, even if the trip lasted just one round.
The Hawks fought back from a 10-point second-half deficit before falling to Vanderbilt 60-54 on Saturday.
"I thought we battled on every possession, being down and coming back," coach Cindy Griffin said. "We were right there at the end, and the shots just didn't fall today. There are days like that."
Chatilla van Grinsven scored 14 points, all in the second half, for ninth-seeded Saint Joseph's (23-9). Natasha Cloud and Ilze Gotfrida each chipped in 10.
Tiffany Clarke had 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead the eighth-seeded Commodores (21-11), while Jasmine Lister added 14 points.
Vanderbilt led most of the way and was up 40-30 after Lister's 3-pointer with 15:54 to play.
But Saint Joseph's would not go away, tying it at 48 on a layup by Van Grinsven with 6:48 to go. She had six points in the 8-0 run that closed the gap.
"I tried to give it everything I had my senior year, my last game," Van Grinsven said.
Heather Bowe's driving layup gave the Commodores the lead back, and Vanderbilt held it down the stretch.
Van Grinsven cut the deficit back to two twice after offensive rebounds. But Lister's driving layup with 40 seconds left made it 58-54, and Van Grinsven fouled out with 28 seconds remaining.
Van Grinsven came in averaging 15 points and 10.5 rebounds but picked up two fouls less than 3 minutes into the game. She sat on the bench for the rest of the first half.
Gotfrida made up for her absence, coming off the bench to score eight of the Hawks' first 15 points.
The teams were tied at 25 before Vanderbilt went on an 8-2 run to close the half.
"We were confident that we could come back," Cloud said. "We had to chip away at it. We tied it up, but we couldn't get over the hump."
The Commodores outrebounded St. Joe's 47-32, a key because neither team shot well. Vanderbilt was just 22 of 59 from the floor but held the Hawks to 19 baskets in 55 attempts.
"It was ugly, but the first round, first game, usually is," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "In the end we made some clutch baskets down the stretch."
Saint Joseph's was making its 12th NCAA tournament appearance, but its first since 2000. The Hawks beat top-seeded Dayton in the Atlantic 10 semifinals and won the championship game by a point over Fordham.
The game was the 127th in the career of Saint Joseph's guard Ashley Prim, tying Michelle Baker's school record.