TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (NWN) — Keon Ellis scored 18 points and Jaden Shackelford added 17 points, helping No. 14 Alabama enter the opening round of Louisiana Tech’s 93-64 season on Tuesday night.
Following the program’s first Southeastern Conference title in 30 years, the Crimson Tide made a strong start despite converting four of their top six scorers.
Ellis was shooting 7 off 5, including three 3-pointers, and nine rebounds off the bench. It was a carryover from some heated practice shooting adventures, including a team drill where players launch 100 3-pointers from a variety of locations.
“He’s shooting lights-out in practice,” Tide coach Nate Oates said. “We call this our ‘NBA 100.’ When you’re going to workout for a team, shoot 100 3s, similar to what you do in an NBA workout.
“He scored 85 out of 100 at one point last week, which is pretty impressive.”
Shackleford made three first half 3 hits and seven board grabs after going 1 for 14 in an exhibition game last month.
“A lot of things were clicking that we were working on,” Ellis said, stressed during the last few weeks of practice. “It’s good to show that stuff in games.”
Fresh recruit JD Davison came off the bench to make his college debut, but made a huge impact in just 13 minutes. The two-time Alabama Mr. Basketball and five-star prospect had 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
“He’s such a powerful, explosive player,” said Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol. “Fast. He goes downhill. We tried to keep him out of transition as much as possible.
“You can see he has immense talent.”
Juwan Gary matched his career-high score with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 17 minutes. Darius Miles scored 11 runs.
Keston Willis led Louisiana Tech with 16 points. Isaiah Crawford added 15, and Kenneth Laughton Jr. had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Ellis took his biggest lead in the first half, 48-31, in the locker room after scoring a 3-pointer and layup in the final 42 seconds.
“We had a few moments, but they’re electric when downhill, reaching the paint and that shares a lot for them,” Konkle said. “They turn down a good shot for a good shot. That’s what they used to do over and over again.
“The moment they missed, they were able to gather some aggressive rebels. They are a tough cover, no doubt about that.”
Louisiana Tech: It was an off shooting night across the board. Overall, 26 out of 67 (39%) went, made six 3-pointers out of 26 and made only six free throws out of 19.
Alabama: The Tide was to replace SEC Player of the Year Herb Jones and NBA first-round draft pick Josh Primo. But the team still opened with high expectations, as a program-record more than 6,700 season tickets were sold. Alabama made 32 of 64 shots (50%) and dominated the board 51–37.
Before the game, Alabama honored one of its famous fans. Luke Ratliff, the student cheering section leader, died of complications from COVID-19 in April, after Alabama’s season ended with a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA. His family was at hand.
“He was more than just a fan,” Oates said. “I felt like he was part of the program.”
Louisiana Tech hosts Jackson State on Friday nights.
Alabama hosts the state of South Dakota on Friday night.
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