Nelson’s buzzer-beater knocks off GW

The two-point win gives men’s basketball confidence moving forward

Nelson’s buzzer-beater knocks off GW

Guard Sa'eed Nelson dunks the ball during a Feb. 2 game against Holy Cross.

The score was knotted at 65 with 15 seconds left, and AU had possession. Senior point guard Sa’eed Nelson, who is on pace to become the program’s all-time leading scorer, slowly dribbled the ball up the court, backed down a 6-foot-6 defender and, with flawless precision, nailed a fadeaway jumper precisely as the buzzer rang.

With that, AU beat the George Washington University Colonials 67-65 in Foggy Bottom on Tuesday night.

AU’s head coach Mike Brennan said he wanted the Preseason Patriot League Player of the Year taking the shot, and Nelson had the confidence to take it. 

“I just wanted to wait, take my time,” Nelson said. “I practice that shot a lot. I just took it, man, with all the confidence, and I’m just glad it went in.”

Last season, AU lost a lot of games like this one. After a convincing first half, the team would slowly let the opponent back in the game and eventually take the lead, and AU would lose by small margins due to poor late-game execution. On Tuesday at GW’s Charles E. Smith Center, this changed, thanks to Nelson.

Prior to the buzzer-beater, a back-and-forth game ensued between AU (1-2) and GW (1-2). Despite turning over GW 13 times and attempting 35 shots in the first half, AU struggled to find its rhythm offensively, shooting 37% from the field.

Luckily for the Eagles, turning over GW so many times in the first half while playing a stifling defense was enough to overcome Arnaldo Toro’s 14 rebounds for the Colonials. The Eagles went into halftime with a 33-26 lead.

Despite shooting 53% in the second half, AU had more offensive opportunities in the first half.

“I thought our offense was better in the first half,” Brennan said. “We were getting better looks.”

Almost immediately after the whistle blew to commence the second half, AU’s lead dwindled to two points. As the second half progressed, AU’s defense struggled with containing GW’s Toro and Jameer Nelson Jr., who combined for 22 second-half points.

Despite the onslaught from the two Colonials, AU remained strong and hit all the shots it needed, including Nelson’s buzzer-beater.

Nelson finished the night with 20 points, while sophomore and junior shooting guards Jacob Boonyasith and Stacy Beckton Jr. both added 13 points for the Eagles. 

“[GW] sort of stepped up their defense [in the second half], so I thought it was harder the second half,” said Brennan. “But I mean, Stacy was getting into the paint, Sa’eed was getting into the paint, Jamir [Harris] was getting into the paint and they were finishing plays.”

Not giving in and beating an Atlantic-10 crosstown rival was a major stepping stone for the Eagles, said Brennan. 

“You put in all this work and you do these things, so when you win it becomes even more tangible,” Brennan said. “It’s a good lesson for us...I’m glad we won.It is a confidence boost.”

Next up, the Eagles will travel to Loretto, Pennsylvania, to take on the St. Francis Red Flash , a team that includes the Northeast Conference Player of the Year Keith Braxton, on Saturday at 7 p.m. The game can be viewed on NEC Front Row.

jkolodny@theeagleonline.com

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