When a top seed goes down in the NCAA Tournament, the natural tendency is to see what went wrong. But in San Diego State’s upset over Alabama on Friday, something went very right for the Aztecs.
That was the play of big man Nathan Mensah.
Mensah showed why he is the two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Mountain West Conference. He finished the game with five blocked shots. That included a late block on Jahvon Quinerly, which essentially iced the game for San Diego State.
Nathan Mensah with a ridiculous block! 🏀 #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/qxlfbrIFiq
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) March 25, 2023
And it’s impossible to know how many other shots he influenced. The Tide attempted 27 three-pointers on the night. If Mensah’s presence made Alabama want to avoid the paint, his impact on the game is even greater.
Basketball fans reacted strongly to his standout game.
That was a rare game where a star shot blocker changed the complexion of the contest. Mensah is Dikembe Mutumbo Jr.
— Corbin K. Smith (@CorbinSmithNFL) March 25, 2023
Mensah blocked Quinerly’s shot 109 times tonight. Gotta be close to a record. #MarchMadness #ByeByeBama
— Cousin Sal (@TheCousinSal) March 25, 2023
Mensah is a high IQ player.
— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) March 25, 2023
Nathan Mensah blocking Jahvon Quinerly at the rim is basically the perfect ending to this second half given how often Quinerly attempted to beat him at the rim with absolutely zero success.
— Sam Vecenie (@Sam_Vecenie) March 25, 2023
Quinerly is going to see Mensah in his nightmares.
— Dana O'Neil (@DanaONeilWriter) March 25, 2023
A lot went wrong for Alabama on the night. Brandon Miller, struggled from the field all day. And while Mensah’s presence in the paint might have forced the Tide into trying 27 three-pointers, had they shot more effectively and made more than three, the result might have been different.
But even in an era which places extra value on long-range shooting, even from big men, Mensah showed that there’s still another way. Mensah was 1-for-3 on field goal attempts and scored only four points. Still, he found a way to dominate the best team in the country.