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The SDSU Aztecs men's basketball team celebrates their 71-64 victory over number one overall seed Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA Sweet 16 round, Friday, March 24, 2023. (SDSU) The SDSU Aztecs men's basketball team celebrates their 71-64 victory over number one overall seed Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA Sweet 16 round, Friday, March 24, 2023. (SDSU)
 


Upset! SDSU Knocks Off Alabama, Aztecs Advance to Elite Eight

Darrion Trammell drops 21 points and SDSU’s stingy defense, led by Nathan Mensah’s five blocks, help seal the upset win over No. 1 seed Crimson Tide.
By Mario Sevilla
 

The San Diego State University men’s basketball team made school history Friday after the fifth-seeded Aztecs knocked out the NCAA Tournament’s number one overall seed Alabama Crimson Tide, 71-64, securing the program’s first Elite Eight appearance.

 

The Aztecs defense contained the Crimson Tide's high-powered offense in the first half, limiting their attack to only eight field goals in 29 attempts (27.6%). Alabama, which relies on their long-range game, struggled from deep making only one 3-pointer out of eleven attempts.

 

SDSU, which also struggled to find a bucket, slogged to a 28-23 lead at halftime.

 

Alabama quickly erased SDSU’s lead to start the second half, burying the Crimson Tide’s second three pointer of the game setting up a 13-4 run.

 

Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher called a timeout midway through the second half and the team roared back. SDSU leaned into their up-tempo offense with help from Darrion Trammell’s five straight points out of the timeout.

 

"We're going to go on our run," Trammell said, "and I just took the opportunities they gave me. I took my shot, and I just made a play on defense. From there, our team was in it. That's when the momentum changed."

 

Forward Nathan Mensah pulled the Aztecs even with the Crimson Tide on a free throw before Adam Seiko hit a three-pointer to help SDSU sprint to a 12-0 run and retake the lead, 51-48, at the 8-minute mark.

 

The Aztecs grabbed their largest lead with four minutes left in the game on a Micah Parrish 3-pointer to go up 58-52. On the next offensive possession, Jaedon LeDee drove through the center of the paint, put a spin move on a defender and lifted up for a thunderous dunk to bring SDSU’s crowd on its feet.

 

With Alabama looking to rally back with less than a minute in the game, Mensah earned his fifth block of the game to help stave off the surging Crimson Tide.

 

"Alabama's a great team. They have a lot of talented players and individuals," Trammell said. "We knew it was going to be hard. It was a dogfight. Very physical."

 

SDSU's stunning upset over Alabama garnered enthusiastic support across the country including California native and the first female to hold the nation’s second-highest office, Vice President Kamala Harris.

 

"Elite 8, here they come. Congratulations to @Aztec_MBB on the huge win — and for reminding everyone to never count out California," Harris tweeted on her verified account.

 

"Elite Eight Bounddd @SDSU!!," tweeted San Diego Wave FC star and former U.S. Women's National Soccer Team co-captain Alex Morgan. The two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion competed collegiately at University of California, Berkeley. 

 

No. 5 San Diego State will take on No. 6 Creighton Bluejays in the 2023 NCAA Tournament South Regional Final on Sunday at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville, Kentucky at 11:20 a.m.

  

NOTES

 

Of the 16 programs to reach the Sweet 16, San Diego State has traveled 4,482.7 miles (First and Second Round & the Sweet 16), which is nearly 1,000 miles further than any other program to reach this point in the event (Princeton is second at 3,520.2 miles). Alabama will have traveled the shortest distance going only 475.6 miles to and from its first and second round games in Birmingham, Ala. and now to Louisville, Ky.

 

This is the fourth NCAA appearance for SDSU Head Coach Brian Dutcher, the two-time Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, in his six seasons as head coach with a likely appearance in the 2019-20 event (San Diego State was 30-2 and a likely No. 1 or No. 2 seed), which was canceled because of the COVID pandemic. He is in his sixth season as San Diego State's head coach and his 24th season on the Aztec sidelines. In his five-plus seasons as head coach, he has led the Aztecs to five conference titles, a 148-46 (76.2 percent) overall record and has already been named the national coach of the year and twice named Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year. Among first time head coaches who started in the 2017-18 season, Dutcher's 148 wins are the most in the nation.