On a night when the Athletic Department honored the late Luke Ratliff, known as Fluff to many, in the pregame, the Crimson Tide showed an electric brand of basketball and ran Louisiana Tech off the court by a score of 93-64. Ratliff, the President of Crimson Chaos for the previous three years, passed away last spring at the age or 23. A visibly emotional coach Nate Oats and his staff met with the Ratliff family at midcourt while a video tribute of Luke was shown. Fluff’s mom, Pam, dad Brian, and little brother Noah were all in attendance.
Thank you just isn’t adequate. We are so humbled by the love shown to us and our boy tonight. Thanks for the opportunity to feel close to my Luke again. This mamas heart is full tonight. @AlabamaMBB @nate_oats @UACoachBryan @Crimson_Chaos— pamela ratliff (@irbransmom) November 10, 2021
The seat that Ratliff sat in each game had a plaque placed on it and the new President of the Chaos was presented a plaid jacket similar to the one Luke wore to every game. After the game Oats said “Fluff was more than a fan, he was part of the team, part of the family. When we would get here for shoot around four hours before the games, Luke would be in the stands getting things ready. He had a real passion for the program that is unique to collegiate sports.” The new leader of the student group is Blake Bullock, one of Luke’s main Lieutenants the last couple of seasons.
The Tide came out of the locker room playing fast and loose. The starting five consisted of Jahvon Quinerly, Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, Noah Gurley, and Charles Bediako. After sprinting out to a 12-6 lead the Tide began having trouble with Bulldogs’ big man Kenneth Lofton, Jr. Lofton, a 6’7” 275 pound nimble footed sophomore. scored 12 points and had nine rebounds in the first half as the Tide big men all got in foul trouble trying to contain him. Lofton would have caused much more damage but hit only 2-7 free throws.
Super freshman JD Davison checked into the game for the Tide with 15:30 left in the half and made an immediate positive impression. His ball handling, court vision, and passing ability is already next level. Juwan Gary continues to give it all he has every time he gets on the floor, seemingly always getting a hand on the ball either to grab a rebound or tip to a team mate.
At the half the Tide led by a score of 48-31. Remember the days of Grantsketball and 52-50 final scores? Bama shot 19-36 for 52% in the first half, including 8-18 for 44% from three point range and 2-5 from the free throw line. The Bulldogs shot 13-32 for 40% with only 3-14 from deep and 2-9 from the charity stripe.
Coach Oats started the same five in the second half. La Tech came out strong and scored the first seven points of the stanza, cutting the lead to 48-38. More misses at the free throw line kept the margin at a comfortable distance for the Tide. Just a few minutes in to the period Lofton went out of the game with some sort of lower body injury, which loosened things up in the middle for Bama. Ellis, Shackelford, Gary, and Darius Miles combined to push the lead out to 66-44 with 12 minutes left and put the game away for the home team.
Davison continued to push the ball, control the pace, and make on the money passes to the right guy throughout the second half. The Tide shot 13-28 for 46% after the break, with 5-15 from three and 14-18 from the free throw line. Overall Bama shot 50% at 32-64 and 13-33 from three for 39% with 16-23 for 70% from the free throw line. The Tide finished with 51 rebounds, 10 assists, nine steals, two blocks, and 14 turnovers. La Tech was only 13-35 for 37% in the period with 3-12 from deep and 4-10 from the line. Overall the Bulldogs shot 26-67 for 39%, 6-26 for 23% from three, and ole 6-19 for 31% from the free throw line. LTU finished with 37 rebounds. 11 assists., three steals. one block, and 11 turnovers.
Individually Ellis led the way with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals while shooting a very efficient 5-7 (3-4 from deep) and making 5-5 free throws. The senior from Eustis, Florida finished with a fantastic +/- of +37. Shackelford was next with 17 points, hitting 4-10 from deep, and added seven rebounds. Gary made the most of his 21 minutes of action, winning the teams first hard hat award by one point over Ellis. Gary scored 12 points on 6-10 shooting and had a double-double by adding 10 rebounds. Davison scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds, and led the team with six assists. Miles added 11 points in 17 minutes on a perfect shooting night, 4-4 overall and 3-3 from behind the arc. Quinerly just missed giving the Tide six in double figures by scoring nine points.
Eight players played double digit minutes, and all contributed in some way. The inside players, Bediako, Gurley, and Keon Ambrose-Hylton all got in foul trouble and didn't contribute a lot statistically, combining for 10 points and five rebounds in 37 minutes. If you want to nitpick on what needs improvement that would be the place to look.
This team is fast, athletic, explosive, and deep. There doesn't seem to be much drop-off when substitutions are made. Clearly this was only one game but it sure looks like Tide basketball fans have a team to be excited about. There was a crowd of almost 13,000 in attendance on Tuesday night and they were loud and proud through the whole contest. The students came out en masse. Oats said they “over sold” and felt like their was over 3,000 students at the game early to help honor Ratliff. Post game Oats said that “we have players that play hard and are a fun group to watch, hopefully we will continue to get great crowds and have several sell outs.” The coach went on to mention the quality of the teams coming into Coleman for games in the pre-conference slate. Oats also said “our bigs are going to have to learn to guard without fouling.”
Next up is South Dakota State on Friday at 7 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum. The game can be seen on SEC Network Plus. SDS is another mid major that will likely be in contention for their league crown, much as La Tech will be.
Roll Tide Roll