Their play against Boston College showed why they constitute one of the best backcourts in the nation.
West scored 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds and Nelson added 13 points to lead Saint John's (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 12 AP) to a 67-57 win over the Eagles on Tuesday.
"He's the leader on the team and my job is to keep it steady," West said. "I guess I'm the silent assassin. Sometimes, I've got to step up and take shots."
The Hawks (6-0) started slowly with some uncharacteristically sloppy play and off-target shooting before West and Nelson passed and shot the Hawks toward another win.
Nelson, a preseason All-America selection, gets most of the attention, but West, last year's Atlantic 10 most improved player, is second on the Hawks in scoring, 3-point shooting and assists. West, still bothered by a high right ankle sprain, went 10-for-17 from the floor.
"Today I felt good and my legs felt a little bit normal," West said. "You're used to playing a certain way, going up and finishing, and now it's like I have to settle for jump shots that I normally would have taken in."
Jared Dudley had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Boston College (6-1). The Eagles shot only 38 percent from the field and were 22-for-34 from the free-throw line.
Nelson had his worst shooting game of the season, making only four of 16 shots, and missing six of seven 3-pointers. He did have seven assists, setting Saint Joseph's career record with 582.
Nelson passed Rap Curry, who had 580 from 1990-1994.
"His distribution of the ball is just extraordinary," Hawks coach Phil Martelli said. "He knows what his team needs and he puts the ball where it has to be put. He's played with guys that can score the ball."
While Nelson struggled from the floor, his passing was on the mark and helped the Hawks' lead swell from five to 17.
Nelson tossed a long pass off a rebound to West, who sidestepped one defender, twisted to his left and made the layup. He sank the free throw for a 47-35 lead and the assist set the record for Nelson.
West, 5-foot-11, made one of the prettier plays of the game, leaping out of nowhere from the right side to tip in a Nelson miss that wowed the crowd and pushed the lead to 53-39.
"We do a good job of finding each other," Nelson said. "We feed each other and motivate each other on the court, whether we make shots or miss shots."
The Eagles went nearly 11 minutes without a field goal midway through the second half, and West and Nelson each sank 3-pointers for a 63-46 lead, Saint Joseph's biggest of the game.
"Our inexperience showed when we got the lead to five," Eagles coach Al Skinner said. "We didn't capitalize and that led to them hitting some transition baskets. I was hoping we'd do a better job with their guards."
West started with the acrobatic plays early, taking a one-handed, off-balance shot that rolled around the rim three or four times before falling in as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Saint Joseph's trailed by one midway through the first half until consecutive 3-pointers from Pat Carroll and Tyrone Barley started a 10-0 run. When the Eagles pulled within three, Barley and Carroll again hit consecutive 3s, helping the Hawks to a 36-26 halftime lead.
Boston College's last win against the Hawks was in the 1984 NIT.