WILLIAMSBURG — In capping a nearly perfect night — he did miss a free throw, after all — Anders Nelson scored six of his team’s final seven points and William & Mary held on for a 77-74 win over Stony Brook Thursday in Kaplan Arena.
Nelson, a grad transfer from St. Thomas (Minn.), scored a season-high 27 points by making all eight of his shots from the floor. He went 7-of-8 from the free throw line, his final two coming with 9.3 seconds remaining. The Seawolves’ Tanahj Pettway missed a 3-pointer at the horn.
“I’ll give him a hard time about the missed free throw, but if he wants to go for 27 on eight shots with four assists and two turnovers the rest of the year, I’ll take it,” W&M coach Dane Fischer said. “He was great tonight.
“This was a phenomenal offensive performance by him. It’s a result of our team playing the right way tonight, and it was his night to have some shots at the end of the clock.”
Nelson scored 10 points in the game’s first seven minutes and had 16 at halftime. But his biggest stretch came in the final 3:10 after Stony Brook cut what had been a 19-point lead four minutes into the second half to four at 70-66.
Nelson took Seawolves’ guard Toby Onyekonwu to the lane and hit a soft jumper from about six feet. It stayed a six-point game until Pettway made a pair of free throws with 1:15 remaining.
On the Tribe’s possession, Nelson took a pass on the right wing with seven seconds left on the shot clock. He again took Onyekonwu to the paint and hit a fade-away jumper from roughly the same spot, pushing the lead back to six with 45.8 seconds remaining.
“When the ball came back to me … I just put my head down, got to the lane and looked to make a play,” Nelson said. “I had somewhat of a smaller defender on me, so I could get to my turnaround.
“It felt great to hit a couple down there at the end, but those two shots and really all of them were a result of my teammates moving the ball so well. We moved the ball probably the best we have all year tonight.”
Nelson’s 8-of-8 shooting night was the most accurate by a Tribe player since Corey Cofield made all nine of his attempts against James Madison on Feb. 4, 2004.
But the game was far from over. Onyekonwu cut the lead in half with a 3-pointer with 36.4 seconds left. W&M’s Chris Mullins then went 1-of-2 from the free throw line, and Pettway hit a jumper from behind the arc to make it 75-74 with 10.5 seconds left.
After a Stony Brook timeout, W&M (9-13, 4-5 CAA) inbounded to Nelson, who was immediately fouled. A 77% shooter for the season, Nelson swished both shots to make it a three-point game with 9.3 seconds left.
Out of timeouts, the Seawolves (7-14, 3-5) pushed it up the floor, but Mullins knocked the ball away from Onyekonwu and out of bounds near the Seawolves bench with 1.2 seconds left. Onyekonwu inbounded to Pettway, who air balled a rushed 3-pointer at the horn.
W&M led for all but 14 seconds and by double digits for more than 21 minutes. But Stony Brook never caved.
“Give Stony Brook a lot of credit the way they battled back,” Fischer said. “They got going from the 3-point line, which hurt us on the defensive end. We were able to make just enough plays down the stretch, two big ones by Anders, when we needed to.”
The Tribe got off to a blistering start by making 14 of its first 19 shots, 8-of-9 from the 3-point arc. No one could have expected such a pace to last, and it didn’t. But W&M still shot 57.4% overall and 81.3% from deep — a school record and the highest in Division I this season — on 13-of-16 shooting.
The Seawolves went 1-of-7 from the arc in the first half but got back in the game by hitting 9-of-16 the rest of the way.
There was a scary moment with 6:50 remaining when Stony Brook’s Tyler Stephenson-Moore was injured on a drive to the basket. After crashing to the floor, he was placed on a backboard and taken by ambulance to a hospital. The game was delayed about 15 minutes.
“Certainly more important than anything in the game is thinking about Tyler Stephenson-Moore,” Fischer said. “It didn’t look great when he went down, so I’m hoping he’s going to be OK.”
William & Mary will go back on the road Saturday at Towson (15-7, 7-2), which defeated Northeastern 72-63 Thursday night.