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updated: 12/15/2012 9:42 PM

Loyola knocks off Mississippi State

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  • Loyola's Matt O'Leary, right, battles Mississippi State's Trivante Bloodman, left, for a loose ball Saturday during the first half in Chicago. Loyola won 59-51.

      Loyola's Matt O'Leary, right, battles Mississippi State's Trivante Bloodman, left, for a loose ball Saturday during the first half in Chicago. Loyola won 59-51.
    Associated Press

 
Assocaited Press

Loyola and Mississippi State honored their past, recognizing players from their 1963 teams that helped change race relations on the basketball court.

Then the current Ramblers used their 3-point shooting to prevail against the Bulldogs.

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Devon Turk hit 5 of 7 3-pointers and scored a career-high 21 points as Loyola beat Mississippi State 59-51 Saturday night.

Christian Thomas added a career-high 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.

The game marked the first meeting between the teams since they played a historic game in the 1963 NCAA tournament. 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.

"As players, the culture we've grown up in, all of us were born in the '90s-plus. We're very fortunate they paved the way for us," Ramblers forward Ben Averkamp said. "Before the game, members of the '63 team were in for our pregame speech. (Our coach) relayed the importance of a game like this."

Mississippi State had turned down invitations to play in NCAA tournaments before 1963 because of an unwritten Mississippi law that forbade teams to play integrated opponents.

Players from the 1963 teams were honored at halftime Saturday.

"I just want to say how appreciative I am to be a part of this," Bulldogs coach Rick Ray said. "Obviously, you'd like the result to be a little different, but I think it was a great learning experience for our guys."

Loyola closed the first half Saturday with a 20-3 run to take a 34-20 halftime lead, and Mississippi State never seriously threatened again. The Ramblers shot 8 of 18 from 3-point range and 41 percent from the field.

Turk, a reserve 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.

"There's no better feeling than being in a rhythm," Turk said. "Last night, I came in and got up shots. We had to make 50, and I made, like, 50 out of 59, so I was feeling it going into the game."

The Bulldogs pulled within 11 after Gavin Ware's dunk with 15:16 remaining, but Loyola kept its lead in the double digits until the final seconds of the game, when Tyson Cunningham hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to eight.

Loyola took its first lead, 18-17, on Turk's two free throws with 5:52 left before halftime. The Ramblers then held Mississippi State scoreless until 59 seconds remained before halftime, when Thomas hit a 3-pointer, en route to the 34-20 halftime lead.

"We were able to get that run and that run was everything," Averkamp said. "That run in the first half, I don't know if we would have had it in us last year."

Mississippi State shot 29 percent and committed nine turnovers in the first half.

"Our guys play hard, and they're trying to do the right things," Ray said. "They're young and inexperienced and get into a situation where they don't understand what's a good shot and what's a bad shot."

In 1963, Mississippi State 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. Mississippi State dodged an injunction that would have prohibited the team from leaving the state.

The Ramblers beat Mississippi State 61-51 in the game. Though the contest is not as well-known as Texas Western's victory over 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 Cincinnati for the NCAA title.

Loyola coach Porter Moser praised Mississippi State's willingness to play the game in Chicago.

"This is a story of Rick showing tremendous class and saying, 'Let's play this game.' And look at how the story has blossomed through the country," Moser said.

NOTES: Loyola had not defeated a BCS team at Gentile Arena since beating Purdue 80-65 on Dec. 11, 2005. ... Mississippi State was the first SEC team to play Loyola on its home court since South Carolina on Dec. 6, 1984. ... Loyola improved to 13-15 all-time against current members of the SEC. ... The Bulldogs remain winless away from home this season.

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