WEST POINT — Anthony Nelson looked like a guy who’d yet to play this season when he committed four turnovers in the early portion of Niagara University’s second-round appearance in the Legends Classic tournament.
That didn’t stop the team’s lone senior from showing his experience when it counted though, as Nelson’s basket with just a second left on the shot clock proved the game’s winning play as the Purple Eagles evened their record at 2-2 with a 65-61 victory over Bowling Green on Friday.
Nelson’s shot, which came with just under a minute to play and gave Niagara a 62-58 edge, came off a nifty feed from Kevon Moore. The Purple Eagles’ senior leader finished with just four points, but came through at crunch time.
“Having Anthony made a huge difference. He was really rusty, he hadn’t practiced for two weeks, and it was the first time he’d gone live with the face mask on,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said. “But he’s the glue guy. We needed him to make a play, and he did. And we were able to do so many more things because of him.”
While Nelson struggled to get things going early, freshmen Marvin Jordan and Malcolm Lemmons picked up the slack. Jordan hit a trio of 3-pointers and finished with 17 points on the day while Lemmons added 13 points and four rebounds in the victory.
The Purple Eagles needed all the help they could get as leading scorer Antoine Mason sat out with a sore foot and sophomore post player Eric Williams couldn’t go because of a bad knee.
“This was a gut check for our guys for sure,” Mihalich said. “I’ve been saying this, but it’s true, we’re just so young and the only way for these guys to get better is to just play.”