With every shot, block, and rebound it took for the Aztecs to survive and advance Friday, they not only had their own bench & traveling supporters at their back, they had an entire Nation on their side. The Aztec Nation.
With their thrilling 71-64 victory over #1 Alabama, San Diego State has now elevated to NCAA tournament heights unseen in program history. The limiting Sweet Sixteen ceiling is no more—this 2023 men’s basketball team is officially ELITE.
Put to bed all the naysayers who claimed they can’t get it done. Lay to rest all doubts that they are not ‘next level’. With one game in Louisville, Kentucky these Aztecs have presented their case for all of San Diego (and the Nation) to … well, … believe.
On the biggest of stages with all of the expert analyst’s picks against them, coach Brian Dutcher has brought his “redeem team” within one game of an NCAA Final Four. And it took all they had to do it.
The matchup was clear. Alabama’s size, skill & athleticism against SDSU’s collection of toughness, maturity & heart. In this game, all heart won the day. Watching this team for a full season, what you see is what you’ll get—grind it out defense, timely offense where you least expect it, and a will that refuses to quit.
No other performance was as vital and as pleasantly surprising as that from guard Darrion Trammell. His huge 21 points on 9 of 16 shooting was the catalyst of the Aztecs comeback after falling behind midway through the 2nd half.
With Matt Bradley trying to get his shot to fall, the offense needed a spark to matchup well against the length that Alabama defends with. Trammell’s smaller stature and quick twitch was just the remedy to pierce their defense.
On the flip side the young guns of Alabama kept shooting themselves in the foot as 14 total turnovers lead to Brian Dutcher’s team ability to dictate the style of play. But that’s not to say the Crimson Tide didn’t fire back.
Coming out of the half with a 28-23 advantage, the Aztecs knew it was only a matter of time for them to face at least one significant run they would have to slow down. That run came right out of the locker room as Alabama seized the lead by as much as 9 points.
It was then that Trammell’s spark ignited the Aztecs back into focus. It was clear this was the moment that signified exactly why his transfer to SDSU was needed.
The way the game unfolded showed the big strides this time has made since last season’s NCAA Tournament disappointment. Nothing exemplifies this as much as how clutch Matt Bradley came into his game last night.
Struggling on 2 of 9 shooting for the evening, Bradley did not play outside of himself once again. Instead channeling his energies fully into the defense and hustle plays that eventually brought his shot around late in the game.
His layup with just over 3 minutes to go turned his light on and after another successful jumper, a pair of free throws and his escape of a triple team in full court pressure, Bradley was able to get the ball in the clear and put the game out of reach for the former #1 team in the nation.
As a whole, stifling defense won the game. Eight blocks and nine steals came in roaring fashion, and the physical nature of the Aztecs proved to outlast the freshman phenoms Noah Clowney and Brandon Miller. Despite his recent hot streak, Alabama guard Jahvon Quinerly was held in check to just 10 points on 4 of 13 shots, giving the Lamont Butler & Aztecs backcourt their latest victim in the lockup tour.
Five of those blocks were owned by Aztecs big man Nathan Mensah. A physical presence in this game, Mensah’s contribution to the team defense cannot be undersold. In the 2nd half his timing of blocks and rebounding came up big as the Aztecs continued to get stops down the stretch.
Facing a team with so much length and height was going to be a challenge for the 6’10” forward from Ghana. But the super senior defensive player of the year of the Mountain West held true to his accolades.
The monumental victory for San Diego State awards coach Dutcher and the team yet another opportunity not just for their place in Aztecs history, but their chance for a Final Four and redemption against last season’s NCAA opponent, Creighton.
With the brothers Adam Seiko and Arthur Kaluma set to battle once again on the NCAA stage, stay tuned for many more media hype surrounding this game. Last season the Aztecs were on pace to defeat the Blue Jays up 9 points with a few minutes to go, only to crumble and allow Creighton to snatch the victory in overtime.
The game is scheduled for Sunday, March 26 with an 11:20 am PST tip off. Creighton is already the two point favorites and despite being the higher seed.
This is a different year. and these two teams are both different as well. The Sons of Montezuma Kiss The Rings Podcast will be conducting a livestream tonight Saturday, March 25 for a preview of the upcoming SDSU vs Creighton Elite 8 matchup. Stay tuned and subscribe to our channel on YouTube today.