SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Christian Kirk scored 16 points and Keith Pickens 14 as Missouri State defeated Loyola 72-56 Tuesday night to stake out -- for the moment -- sole possession of third place in the Missouri Valley Conference, which begins its post-season tournament next week.
The Bears (19-10, 9-8 MVC) led wire-to-wire and forced 13 Loyola turnovers, outscoring the Ramblers (9-20, 4-13) off turnovers 15-2 in the first half alone.
Jarmar Gulley scored 10 points with 10 rebounds, his 15th straight game scoring in double figures.
The Ramblers came as close as eight after halftime, 52-44, when Tony Nixon hit a 3 and Milton Doyle added a free throw at 8:23 remaining, but never got closer.
Nixon led Loyola with 15 points off the bench. Joe Crisman added 14 before fouling out.
Missouri State is in a four-way scrum for third in the MVC and face unbeaten Wichita State on Saturday.