December 15, 2012 10:32:41 PM
CHICAGO -- Devon Turk scored a career-high 21 points as Loyola of Chicago men's basketball team beat Mississippi State University 59-51 Saturday night.
Christian Thomas added 16 points for the Ramblers (7-3), who have won five of their last six games and equaled their win total from last season.
Fred Thomas had 14 points for Mississippi State (3-6), which shot just 37.5 percent from the field.
"In every game, we have a situation where we don't score the basketball," MSU coach Rick Ray said. "Our guys are young and inexperienced; they don't know how to grind through that. We are doing some things well defensively. However, we don't know what we need to do to grind through those offensive problems."
Loyola closed the first half with a 17-3 run to take a 34-20 halftime lead, and MSU never seriously threatened again. The Ramblers shot 8 of 18 from 3-point range and 41 percent from the field.
The game marked the first meeting between the teams since they played a historic game in the 1963 NCAA tournament that helped change race relations on the basketball court. The all-white Bulldogs had to sneak out of Mississippi to avoid an injunction in order to play Loyola, which had four African-American starters, in the NCAA Regional in East Lansing, Mich.
MSU had turned down invitations to play in previous NCAA tournaments because of an unwritten Mississippi law that forbade teams to play integrated opponents.
Players from the 1963 teams were honored at halftime Saturday.
Turk, a freshman, scored 18 of his game-high 21 points in the first half, when Loyola shot 46 percent from the field. He eclipsed his previous high of 19 points against Furman on Dec. 1.
The Bulldogs pulled within nine after Gavin Ware's dunk with 15:16 remaining, but Loyola pushed it back to double digits and led 53-36 on Thomas' three-point play with 7:34 remaining.
Turk hit his fifth 3-pointer with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left to extend the lead to 56-38.
Loyola took its first lead, 19-17, on Turk's two free throws with 5:52 left before halftime. Loyola then held MSU scoreless until 59 seconds remained before halftime, when Thomas hit a 3-pointer, cutting Loyola's lead to 34-20. The Bulldogs shot 29 percent and committed nine turnovers in the first half.
"We had two guys in foul trouble in the first half and that puts us in a bind with our depth," Ray said. "You don't want to risk a player getting a third foul, but we don't have options. We are shooting the ball so poorly right now. We need our guys to have a little more confidence."
Roquez Johnson added 13 points, including a 7-of-8 night at the free-throw line. Colin Borchet and Ware each had five rebounds. The Bulldogs had a season-high eight blocked shots, including five from Ware.
In 1963, MSU coach Babe McCarthy and other school leaders helped facilitate a secret trip to East Lansing to allow the SEC champion a chance to play Loyola. MSU dodged an injunction that would have prohibited the team from leaving the state.
Loyola beat MSU 61-51 in the game. Though the contest is not as well-known as Texas Western's victory against the University of Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA championship, it has gained recognition over the years. The NCAA picked the game in 2006 as one of the 25 defining moments in the organization's first 100 years.
Upon returning to Mississippi, the Bulldogs avoided punishment and were received warmly. Loyola went on to beat two-time defending champion University of Cincinnati for the NCAA title.
MSU will returns to action at 2 p.m. Saturday against the University of Central Arkansas at the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson.
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