Bucknell Defeats Second Seed American in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals
By: Ethan Hennessy
One of the best players in American University basketball history and 2020 Patriot League Player of the Year Sa’eed Nelson had never won a Patriot League Tournament game in his four year career in the nation’s capital entering Thursday’s clash against the Bucknell Bison. That trend continued as 2 seed American fell to 7 seed Bucknell 64-59 inside Bender Arena in the Patriot League Tournament Quarterfinals.
“You don’t score 2,000 points, get 500 assists, 500 steals, and 500 rebounds if you are not really good, and you’re not going to shut him down. We just wanted to make sure he had to earn it.” – Nathan Davis Bucknell Coach on facing Sa’eed Nelson
Bucknell was coming off a three point first round win over Holy Cross. It was the first time The Bison had been in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament since the league shifted to its current postseason format in the 2013-14 season. The game was close throughout. In the first half the teams went back and forth. Neither team led by more than five in the first half. American went to their playmaker Sa’eed Nelson early and often. Almost every time he touched the ball he drove aggressively to the rim looking to make a layup or initiate contact. When asked what the gameplan was regarding slowing down Nelson Bucknell coach Nathan Davis “You don’t score 2,000 points, get 500 assists, 500 steals, and 500 rebounds if you are not really good, and you’re not going to shut him down. We just wanted to make sure he had to earn it.
That he had to make shots over people. That he didn’t get walk in jumpers at 15 feet.” Nelson did have his way though scoring a game high 22 points grabbing seven rebounds, and recording a game high five steals. American cut the Bucknell lead to just one at halftime thanks to a Connor Nelson corner three pointer as the buzzer expired. That was one of just five three pointers to fall for American on 28 attempts on the night.
In the second half. Bucknell made plays to try to increase their lead, but were never able to pull away further than six points. American rallied late to tie the game, but a series of a three pointer and drive in the paint put the game out of reach even as American fouled at the end to send Bucknell to the line, and the Bison walked out of the Patriot League Quarterfinals upsetting the second seed American Eagles by a score of 64-59. It wasn’t pretty. Neither team shot more than 30% from three, and both were below 64% from the free-throw line. However, in the end Bucknell was able to make a few more shots than American.
Up next for Bucknell they will travel to Boston to take on the 3 seed Boston University Terriers at Case Gymnasium on Sunday afternoon. For American we will wait to see if the Eagles accept a CIT or CBI bid. Otherwise their season is over.