Shackelford, Ellis lead No. 14 Alabama past La Tech, 93-64
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Keon Ellis scored 18 points and Jaden Shackelford added 17, leading No. 14 Alabama to a 93-64 season-opening rout of Louisiana Tech on Tuesday night.
Fresh off the program’s first Southeastern Conference title in 30 years, the Crimson Tide got off to a strong start despite replacing four of its top six scorers.
Ellis was 5-of-7 shooting, including three 3-pointers, and had nine rebounds off the bench. It was a carryover from some hot practice shooting exploits, including in the team’s drill where players launch 100 3-pointers from different spots.
“He’s been shooting lights-out in practice,” Tide coach Nate Oats said. “We call it our ‘NBA 100,’ shoot 100 3s similar to what you do in an NBA workout when you’re going to work out for a team.
“He shot 85 out of 100 at one point last week, which is fairly impressive.”
Shackelford hit three first-half 3s and grabbed seven boards after going 1 of 14 in an exhibition game last month.
“A lot of stuff was clicking that we were working on, stressing during these last couple of weeks of practice,” Ellis said. “It’s good to see that stuff showing up in games.”
Top freshman recruit JD Davison came off the bench for his college debut but had a big 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,” Louisiana Tech coach Eric Konkol said. “Fast. He gets downhill. We tried to keep him out of transition as much as possible.
“You can see he’s got immense talent.”
Juwan Gary matched his career high with 12 points and had 10 rebounds in 17 minutes. Darius Miles scored 11.
Keaston Willis led Louisiana Tech with 16 points. Isaiah Crawford added 15, and Kenneth Lofton Jr. had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Alabama took its largest lead of the first half, 48-31, into the locker room after Ellis scored on a 3-pointer and layup in the final 42 seconds.
“We had some moments, but they are electric at getting downhill, getting to the paint and it triggers a lot of sharing for them,” Konkol said. “They turn down a good shot for a great shot. They did that repeatedly.
“The times they did miss they were able to collect a couple of offensive rebounds. They’re a tough cover, no doubt.”
Louisiana Tech: Had an off shooting night across the board. Went 26 of 67 (39%) overall, made six of 26 3-pointers and just six of 19 free throws.
Alabama: The Tide had 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 evidenced by the program-record 6,700-plus season tickets sold. Alabama made 32 of 64 shots (50%) and dominated the boards 51-37.
Before the game, Alabama honored one of its better-known fans. Luke Ratliff, the leader of the student cheering section, died in April from complications of COVID-19 days after Alabama’s season ended with a Sweet 16 loss to UCLA. His family was on hand.
“He was more than just a fan,” Oats said. “I felt like he was part of the program.”
Louisiana Tech hosts Jackson State on Friday night.
Alabama hosts South Dakota State on Friday night.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25