As the Northeast weather has gotten colder, Fairfield University sophomore guard Tyler Nelson has had the hot hand. The Branford, Mass. native scored a career high 27 points in leading the Stags (9-8, 3-4 MAAC) to a 73-68 home victory over Niagara (5-13, 3-4 MAAC) Friday night (January 15) at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT.
Nelson nailed a three-pointer to give Fairfield a 65-62 lead with just over a minute left in the game, and then calmly hit two free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
The product of Central Catholic has continued his deft shooting on the heels of his All-MAAC Rookie team selection in his freshman campaign. Nelson’s previous career best was 26 points last February in a Fairfield win over St. Peter’s, also at Webster Bank.
Back to this season, where Nelson has led the Stags in scoring on four occasions, all Fairfield victories, including a 25-point outburst against Bucknell on December 27. He is shooting .343 from three-point land and .878 from the foul line, which is good for third in the MAAC.
In Fairfield’s last five victories, Nelson has been on fire, averaging 22 ppg on the strength of 58 percent shooting from the field, and a sizzling 53 percent from beyond the arc.
Nelson’s 15.6 ppg ranks second only to senior forward Marcus Gilbert (19.5) on the Fairfield scoring leader board, and ninth in the MAAC.
Tyler has been careful with the ball, as well, with a 2.4 assist to turnover radio (59 assists and just 24 turnovers) to rank second in the conference.
The win over Niagara was the Stags ninth victory of the campaign, two more than they recorded all of last season, took Fairfield above the .500 mark.
“It was a big win for us because we wanted to come out and make a statement,” Nelson said. “After a tough loss in our last game (Monmouth), we wanted to get a win on our home floor. Close games like this make you better. It will help us a lot later in the season and in postseason. We are a young team and we are learning so this is really helping us.”
Nelson doesn’t mind the cold weather. Between studies, practice, games and travel, he has no time to work on his golf game anyway. That will wait until spring time.
Fairfield will host St. Peter’s (6-8, 4-1 MAAC) on Tuesday night (January 19) at its on-campus home Alumni Hall on the freshly-minted George R. Bisacca Court. The Stags will try to complete a three-game sweep of the Legacy Series at Alumni Hall, having beaten Columbia, 82-81, in OT on November 27, and Dartmouth, 97-85, on January 4. Tip off against the Peacocks is at 7:00 PM.
Nelson heads a New England triumvirate on the Fairfield roster. Freshmen Curtis Cobb (Fall River, MA/Wilbraham & Monson) and Jerry Johnson, Jr. (Notre Dame Prep/Fitchburg, MA [by way of Tennessee]) complete the New England trio.
The future bodes well for the Stags under the tutelage of fifth year head coach Sydney Johnson with two sophomores comprising the starting backcourt. Joining Nelson is second-year playmaker Jerome Segura, who dished off nine assists for Fairfield against Dartmouth on January 4 his career best, and tops the Stags with 5.5 apg. The 5-11 Segura is Fairfield’s fifth leading scorer with 7.9 ppg. Segura is fourth in the MAAC in assists with 4.9 apg in conference games.
More on Nelson:
2014-15: Nelson emerged as one of the MAAC’s top freshmen which was backed up by his appearance on the MAAC’s All-Rookie team. The guard became one of the conference’s top three-point threats by netting 64 shots from behind the three-point line, the most since Jermaine Clark’ posted 70 three pointers as a freshman. Nelson averaged 17.5 points per game over the final six regular-season games and hit double-figures in each of those contests. The rookie scored 10 or more points in 15 games, second only to Marcus Gilbert (27 games). He scored 24 points against South Dakota in his fourth career game, his only 20-point performance until he reached the mark in back-to-back games late in the year (26 vs. Saint Peter’s and 23 at Canisius). He was one of three Stags to have more assists (41) than turnovers (40). He just missed reaching the top ten for three-point field goal percentage in a season as his .424 field goal percentage was shy of Michael Van Schaick’s mark of .430 (2005-06 season). His three-point shooting was effective when he could take multiple shots, making 61 of 135 attempts (.451) when he tried four or more three-point field goals in a game. When he shot three or less three-point attempts in a contest, he made 3 of 16 shots (.188).
Before Fairfield: Nelson joined the Stags basketball program after securing the Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year award in 2013-14. He is an All-Conference player who scored 1,443 career points while attending Central Catholic High School. He took his high school team to the state championship game with a 22-6 record before falling four points short. Nelson averaged 22 points and six rebounds per game as a senior and netted 70 three-point field goals. He ended his career with 230 three pointers, averaging better than two made per game. He was named the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Most Valuable Player for the second straight year following the 2013-14 campaign. He was a two-time Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC) Player of the Year and a two-time ESPN Boston All-State player. As a junior, Nelson averaged 16.2 points per game and was named to the All-MVC Team. He helped the Raiders win the MVC Large and Division 1 North sectional title. Nelson also was the MVC Most Valuable Player as a golfer, winning a conference individual championship during his career.