By The Associated Press
CHICAGO — Devon Turk scored a career-high 21 points as Loyola of Chicago beat Mississippi State 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.
Loyola closed the first half with a 17-3 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.
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.
Mississippi State 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 6:36 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. The Ramblers then held Mississippi State 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.
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.
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.