In the first minute of Sunday’s game at the Gallagher Center, Anthony Nelson asked off the floor, buried his head in trash can on the sideline, and threw down his pregame meal.
In the final minute, Nelson was taken off the floor to a standing ovation from the crowd of 1,187 after putting on a performance that secured his status as an all-time Purple Eagle.
Nelson had 10 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists and five steals in the Niagara’s 77-60 win over Marist that snapped a seven-game losing streak.
According to Niagara’s athletic communications department, Nelson recorded the first triple double in program history.
“Anthony Nelson — man he was tremendous,” Marist coach Chuck Martin said at the start of his postgame remarks. “It’s always good to see a senior finish out his career the way he should.”
“It’s just amazing what he did today,” Niagara coach Joe Mihalich said.
Nelson’s 14 assists were a career-high and tied for the third-highest total in school history. Nine of his assists came in the first half, when Niagara (5-20, 2-11 MAAC) shot 53.6 percent from the floor and built a 16-point lead.
“It really came down to us making shots,” Nelson said. “We got some of the looks we always get, but they were just going through the hoop today.”
Nelson is now 22 assists shy of Niagara’s all-time record.
“I wasn’t sure if Anthony would break that career assists record, but he might be able to do it now,” MIhalich said. “I might get a phone call from Alvin Cruz to see if I can take him out of the game quicker.”
Seven of Nelson’s assists were converted by freshman backcourt-mate Marvin Jordan, who scored a career-high 27 points, 21 coming in the first half. Jordan shot 7 of 10 from beyond the arc, becoming the sixth player in program history to make at least seven 3s in a game.
Jordan has averaged 20.5 points over his last four games and has made 20 of 35 3-point attempt’s during that span.
Freshman guard Skylar Jones came off the bench to score 16 points, making three 3-pointers early on to help Niagara take control of the game. In the four games prior to Saturday, Jones shot 0 for 14.
“Coach got on me earlier in the week and just told me I need to put in more overtime in the gym,” Jones said.
“I told Marvin and Skylar before the game, just knock down some shots,” Nelson said. “I’m going to get you some looks.”
Nelson’s five steals pushed his season average up to 3.31 and kept him atop the national rankings.
“You know how hard it is to get five steals?” Mihalich said. “You have to be such a good basketball player. You have to be athletic, you have to be quick, but you really have to know the game.”
It’s also hard for a 6-foot-1 guard to get 10 rebounds, but Nelson nearly did it by halftime.
Nelson’s point total was the least impressive part of his stat line — unless you watched the game.
He had seven assists and seven rebounds when he scored his first points on a pair of free throws with 2:40 left in the half. His first basket came at the halftime horn when he flipped in a finger roll while falling down.
Nelson reached double figures on a corner 3-pointer with just under five minutes to play, but it was an old-fashioned 3-point play two minutes earlier that sent the crowd into a frenzy. Pulling the ball back on a fast break to pretend like he was setting up a play, Nelson pivoted toward the baseline for an emphatic dunk over Marist’s 6-foot-10 center Adam Kemp that would later appear on ESPN’s Top 10 plays.
After each of his field goals and a few of his most creative assists, Nelson turned to a group of friends in the crowd and mimicked Aaron Rodgers’ championship belt celebration maneuver.
“I’ve been a Packers fan for years,” Nelson said. “I had to hit them with the belt.”
Sunday wasn’t the first time Nelson got sick at the start of a game. In last year’s BracketBuster contest at Wisconsin-Milwaukee — Packers country — Nelson threw up on the floor. He wound up within two rebounds and one assist from a triple-double. He also threw up before putting up 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight steals against Siena last month.
“It’s just something that happens to me,” Nelson said.
It happens to bring out the best in him.
Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.