More than an hour after American’s 64-59 loss to Bucknell, Sa’eed Nelson stood with ice packs on both legs. The cruel month of March had struck again. With all the accolades Nelson has received, the last two seasons his year had come to an end with a home loss in the Patriot League tournament.
American’s all-time leading scorer ✅
2,000 points/500 rebounds/500 assists✅
Patriot League Player of the Year✅
— American U. Men’s Basketball (@AU_MBasketball) March 2, 2020
“We felt like this was the year we had the team to make the tournament,” said Sa’eed Nelson.
Statistically, Nelson had his typical high level night. His 22 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists night. Nelson’s only hold would be at the free throw line where he was only 7-13. The Eagles’ offense was smothered by Bucknell’s switching defense. “Switching hurt us,” said American head coach Mike Brennan. American would shoot 36.2% on the night.
American had some success early on. Nelson was able to penetrate early in the game, in part, because the Eagles were able to get some run-outs off Bison turnovers. But, when Bucknell picked it up on offense, they were able to make American play against their half-court defense and the game completely changed. All of a sudden, Nelson had no lanes to attack and, all too often, the Eagles shot a three-pointer (5-23) or a contested shot.
Even with the great defense by Bucknell, American would go on a 7-2 run and take the lead on a Jamir Harris three-pointer with 2:43 left. But Bucknell would respond on the next possession with a three-point play by Avi Toomer. The Bison would never lose the lead after that.
Nelson’s impact on the program will be felt for year’s to come. As a freshman, Brennan frequently played Nelson between 37-40 minutes a game. The investment in his point guard paid off as the Eagles went from eight wins in Nelson’s freshman year to 15 in his junior year to 16 and a second place finish in the Patriot League this year.
“He brought this program to where we are now which is, we are in a good spot… They (returning players) had the luxury of watching a guy like him. Where he didn’t. So he had to learn everything on his own. So on the court as a freshman, 40 minutes a game. That’s ridiculous. And for him to grow the way he grew and to keep staying positive. Keeping everybody together. He was able to get us to where we are now. So I told him whatever success we have beyond this, he’ll be a big part of it. It’s because of him.” Coach Mike Brennan on Sa’eed Nelson’s career.
Last night’s loss will undoubtedly stick around for a while for Nelson and his teammates. When asked about the mood of the locker room after the game, Nelson responded, “No words”.