‘Fearless’ SDSU topples No. 1 overall seed Bama

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LOUISVILLE, KY. — No. 1 overall seed Alabama, which emerged as the most dominant and divisive team during a turbulent 2022-23 season, sputtered offensively and found an exit from the NCAA tournament on Friday night.

The Crimson Tide fluctuated between careless and reckless in a sloppy 71-64 loss to No. 5 seed San Diego State, as they finished the night with 14 turnovers and shot just 3-for-27 from 3-point range.

San Diego State clinches the program’s first-ever berth in the Elite Eight, led by Darrion Trammell‘s 21 points and an unflinching defensive resolve that ground Alabama’s dreams of a first-ever Final Four into a puddle of frustration and missed shots.

The Aztecs have remained a consistent NCAA tournament team during coach Brian Dutcher’s six seasons, and they suffocated Alabama’s offense by holding the Crimson Tide to less than 33% overall shooting. The team with the defiant chant of “I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN” executed that through stretches of tough offense and a nine-point second-half deficit.

Star forward Brandon Miller, a projected top-five NBA draft pick, will likely end his college career with a dismal 3-for-19 shooting night in which he took more than 12 minutes to score his first basket.

Alabama has been the sport’s awkward juggernaut, winning the SEC and the SEC tournament and resonating as the tournament’s top team on Selection Sunday. But for all of Alabama’s talent and depth, they couldn’t overcome an offensive quagmire in the middle of the second half. The Tide’s offense is based on shooting almost exclusively layups and 3-pointers, and it has left them vulnerable to bad shooting nights.

Alabama appeared to wrestle control of the game early in the second half, erasing a five-point halftime deficit by ratcheting up the tempo and finally hitting a few shots. But after leading 48-39 with 11:40 remaining, Alabama’s offense disappeared.

San Diego State ran off 12 straight points, capped by an Adam Seiko 3-pointer. And with the Aztecs back in the game, Alabama fell apart.

Steady senior point guard Jahvon Quinerly got four shots blocked within a three-minute span in the second half and finished the game with three turnovers. Miller kept firing 3-pointers to finish 1-for-10 from 3. And the Tide simply got pushed around at times by the sturdy SDSU frontline of Keshad Johnson, Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah.

San Diego State managed to pull the upset with leading scorer Bradley scoring only six points on 2-for-9 shooting, including no points in the first half. This wasn’t a game where the Aztecs shot the lights out, they simply overwhelmed the Tide and turned the light out.

SDSU entered the game with the country’s No. 6 defense and turned the game to a slog to keep it within reach, leading 28-23 at the half and keeping it at a deliberate pace. The Aztecs held Miller without a basket for game’s first 12:45, forced him into early foul trouble and mixed in a full-court press to keep Alabama out of sync. (Miller nearly nicked up his third foul with nine minutes left in the first half, but the officials decided to give it to guard Mark Sears — a phantom call on a night of generally ghoulish officiating.)

San Diego State beat No. 12 Charleston and No. 13 Furman en route to the Sweet 16, one of the easier paths. The Aztecs looked athletically overwhelming to those opponents and didn’t appear overmatched against Alabama’s deep roster of athletes and future NBA picks that overwhelmed much of the SEC this season.

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