Alabama basketball honors late superfan Luke 'Fluffopotamus' Ratliff with win over LA Tech

Nick Kelly
The Tuscaloosa News

In what was Nate Oats' first game coaching Alabama basketball without late superfan Luke 'Fluffopotamus' Ratliff in the stands, the Crimson Tide put on a show. 

No. 13 Alabama started its season off with a 93-64 victory over Louisiana Tech on Tuesday at Coleman Coliseum. 

"(Ratliff) was part of us," Oats said. "Hopefully the spirit of what he was about stays with the student section." 

Here are observations and takeaways from the Crimson Tide's first game of the season: 

Luke Ratliff honored pregame 

The University of Alabama honored the memory of super fan Luke Ratliff, known as Fluffopotamus, before the game against Louisiana Tech in Coleman Coliseum Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. Bryan and Pam Ratliff, Luke's parents, were presented a photograph of the seat dedicated in Luke's honor by Athletic Director Greg Byrne, Assistant Coach Bryan Hodgson and Head Coach Nate Oats  [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Before the basketball began, the Coleman Coliseum crowd took time to recognize an absence felt by many. 

With plaid blazers making appearances throughout the crowd, Alabama played a video honoring Ratliff, who died at 23 in April. 

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Once the video concluded, Coleman Coliseum gave Ratliff a standing ovation. And in true tribute to Ratliff, dozens of students showed up an hour early to the game. By the time the game arrived, it was close to full from the floor to the top of the stands in the student section. 

"I thought (it) was awesome," Oats said.

Everyone stayed standing after applauding Ratliff as his parents, Pam and Bryan, received a plaque from Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne, coach Nate Oats and assistant coach Bryan Hodgson, all wearing plaid blazers themselves. 

Ratliff also had a Coleman Coliseum seat memorialized in his honor. 

Then, to start a new tradition, the Ratliffs gave a plaid blazer and a hug to the next president of the Crimson Chaos student support group, Blake Bullock. 

JD Davison meets hype in debut 

Five-star freshman JD Davison didn't even have to do anything but dribble up the court and the Coleman Coliseum crowd was already cheering for him. 

Those cheers only became louder once Davison showed why he's worthy of being called a human highlight reel. 

In transition, Davison took a pass from Keon Ellis and slammed it home to make it 22-16 with 10:18 left in the first half. With the crowd already entertained, Davison drew more cheers when he hit a 3-pointer shortly after. 

As Davison subbed out of the game moments later, chants of "JD, JD, JD" filled the arena. He finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in his debut. 

"That's not an easy stat line to pull off," guard Keon Ellis said. "I don't think the big crowd, the big game or whatever has an effect on him. That was good to see that as a team, with a lot of talent we have at our guard spots, that he was able to perform well." 

Juwan Gary a rebounding machine who can score

Juwan Gary didn't start for Alabama, but he quickly made his presence felt. 

Gary grabbed six boards in the first half, four of which came on offense. He was an offensive threat for the Crimson Tide off rebounds as he scored eight points in the first half coming off the bench. He also had a dunk as Alabama built its first-half lead. 

In the second half, his contributions continued. He finished with 12 points and a team-high 10 rebounds. 

Ellis clutch on display at end of first half

Oats has talked all offseason how Ellis is one of the best two-way players in the country. Ellis displayed that well in the last few series in the first half on a night in which he finished plus-37 in plus-minus. 

"That's unheard of," Oats said. "That's some Herb Jones type stuff there." 

First, he hit a 3-pointer right after the Bulldogs did with one minute left. 

The next offensive possession, Ellis tipped in the rebound after another teammate's 3-point attempt.

With the clock ticking down at the end of the first half and the entire crowd on its feet, Louisiana Tech would have one last possession. As the Bulldogs' guard drove toward the basket, Ellis came in and swiped the basketball out of bounds. 

Ellis preserved Alabama's 48-31 lead heading into the intermission. It was a remarkable finish to the half for the senior guard. 

Ellis finished the game with 18 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and was 5-for-5 at the free-throw line and 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. 

"Keon Ellis," Oats said, "I think everybody sees how good he can be."

Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: nkelly@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly