Sa’eed Nelson was back and so was the Eagles offense. But it wasn’t all the Preseason Player of the Year. The Eagles balanced attack gave the Tribe fits in the first half. But Nelson’s 22 points 3 rebounds, and 3 assists wasn’t enough in a 79-70 loss to William and Mary.
American jumped out to a 9-0 lead on 3-5 three point shooting but they couldn’t stay in rhythm. The Eagles pushed the ball up the floor early and often off every William and Mary miss.
By far, this is the most athletic team head coach Mike Brennan has had during the Nelson Era.
One of the most misunderstood concepts of what most think of as a Princeton based offense, is the thought that the offense holds the ball. Against William and Mary, the Eagles were able to get off-script points in the half court from transfer Jamir Harris and Stacy Beckton. When American was able to break down the Tribe defense, there were plenty of kick out opportunities for Jacob Boonyasith. Then there’s Nelson’s all-around game giving the defense fits.
The key for the season might lay with whether the Eagles can deal with all that comes with more possessions that can be classified as “early offense”? Missed three pointers led to runouts for William and Mary. Early offense also leads to shorter possessions which means the Eagles have to be better in transition and secondary-transition defense.
This was on full display in the first half. The Eagles would go scoreless for 4:28 leading to a 14-0 run by the Tribe. The combination of forced shots and turnovers allowed William & Mary to get back in the game.
It got even worse in the second half as William & Mary dominated the Eagles in the paint outscoring them 48-20. The Tribe’s big man, Nathan Knight, finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds.
With 16:22 left the second half, William and Mary had taken a 46-42 lead. It all comes with the territory. The Tribe lead would eventually get up to seven. But instead of looking “rushed”, the Eagles looked comfortable with pushing the ball up as they would seize the lead back at 52-51.
William and Mary would go on another run that would give them a 60-54 lead. This time around instead of continuing the pace, American slowed it down. That’s when it seemed like the game got away. They were back to throwing the ball around the perimeter waiting for Nelson to “do something”.
This is something fans should be more than willing to live with.
This could be a very special season in Tenleytown as long as the team finds balance.