The top ranked and top seeded Alabama Crimson Tide lost their sweet sixteen game to San Diego State 71-64 on Friday night. The Tide was looking to advance to the elite eight for only the second time in school history and then to the final four for the first time. Most pundits had this Bama squad as the favorite to go all the way. Instead, possibly the best team in the long history of Alabama basketball ended their season with a loss and a 31-6 overall record. The Tide won the SEC regular season and Tournament Championships for the second time in three years. SDSU improved to 30-6 and will play on Sunday with a chance to reach the final four.
Bama continued with their postseason starting five of Mark Sears, Jahvon Quinerly, Charles Bediako, Noah Clowney, and Brandon Miller. The Tide got the first basket of the game when Clowney got the hoop and the harm, making the free throw for quick 3-0 lead. Points didn't come nearly as easily the remainder of the first half.
When Rylan Griffen hit a three point shot with 11:19 left in the period the score was only 11-11. The rest of the way was a slog of both teams missing shots and turning the ball over. The Aztecs had a run toward the end of the half and took a lead of 28-23 into the locker room.
Bama shot 8-29 for 28% including just 1-11 from three point range for 9%, and made 6-7 free throws. The Tide did grab 22 rebounds, had three blocks, one steal, three assists, and seven turnovers. Sears five points led the way. SDSU shot a little better at 12-37 for 32%. with 2-8 from deep, and 2-4 on free throw attempts. The Aztecs had 25 rebounds, 10 on the offensive end, one block, four steals, five assists, and five turnovers. Darrion Trammell was the leading scored with 12 points.
The Tide used the same starting lineup to begin the second half and made a run to take the lead. Miller hit his only three pointer of the night and when Bediako had a dunk on a pass from Miller the Tide led 36-32. Around the 12 minute mark Quinerly hit a three to push the Tide out to a lead of 45-37, and with 11:40 left Bama had built a nine point lead.
Then things went to hell.
Within eight minutes left the Aztecs had scored 11 straight points and led 51-48, and with a 16-2 run held a lead of 55-50 with five minutes left. The Tide cut the lead to 66-64 with 45 seconds left, but an inability to make shots and SDSU success at the free throw line led to the 71-64 loss.
In the second half the Tide “improved” to 15-42 for 36%, 2-16 for 12% from three and made 9-13 free throws. Overall Bama shot 23-71 for 32%, a dismal 3-27 for 11% from three and 15-20 for 75% from the charity stripe. Bama had 52 rebounds, 10 assists, five steals, five blocks, and 14 turnovers in the game. Sears had a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds but was 0-5 from behind the arc. Bediako had 10 points and seven rebounds and Quinerly was also in double digits with 10 points, three assists, and three rebounds. Miller shot only 3-19 in the game with 1-10 from three and scored nine points with 11 rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block, and six turnovers. Noah Gurley made all three of his shots, scoring six points and blocking three shots.
SDSU shot 14-32 in the half with 4-9 from deep and 11-18 on free throws. Overall the Aztecs shot 28-69 for 38%, 6-17 from three for 35% and 13-22 for 59% from the free throw line. State had 48 rebounds, 10 assists, nine steals, eight blocks, and 12 turnovers. Trammell finished with 21 points to lead all scorers.
It is a disappointing end to a magical season. The Tide ran into a tough, physical, veteran, team that defended extremely well. This was just the type of team that had given Bama trouble all season. The Aztecs seemed to get every 50-50 ball and didn't mind getting down and dirty to do so. There were several San Diego State players that would have won the Tide’s hard hat award on this night. One has to wonder if the weight of the national (and much of the local) media calling for his head caused the seemingly unflappable Miller finally wore down. On top of the groin injury he was fighting the superstar freshman did not play up to his own lofty standards during the NCAA Tournament.
Now it is time to say goodbye to (IMO) the best player to ever wear the Crimson and White, as Miller will be a high lottery pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Clowney is likely to follow him and be a first round pick as well. Quinerly technically could return for his 6th season. Gurley has used up his eligibility and will move on. Bediako became a force down the stretch of the season and hopefully will be back for his junior season. Sears, Jaden Bradley, Nimari Burnett, Rylan Griffen, and Nick Pringle should all return barring any surprises concerning the transfer portal or the various professional leagues. Those six would build a nice foundation for go with the incoming signing class and anyone picked up in the portal.
With a school record for victories and a double SEC Championship this season should be looked at as a success, but with the expectations of being the number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament it is hard to say that it is. Time will tell how the season is looked at in Alabama history. Adios until October.