The first time around, Mississippi State players had to sneak out of the state by boarding a plane in the dead of night. They were running from their own Governor, who was expected to issue an injunction against their intent to play Loyola of Illinois in an NCAA tournament game.
The year was 1963, and the issue at hand was race. Governor Ross Barnett was prepared to squash a basketball team’s dreams of playing for a national title and the glory of a state university because their northern opponent fielded a racially integrated team.
The result of the 1963 tournament game was a 61-51 win for Loyola.
In tonight’s rematch, played in honor of those 1963 renegades, the result was very much the same. Loyola of the Horizon League moved to 7-3 on the strength of a convincing 59-51 victory over the SEC challenger.
Devon Turk of the Ramblers led all scorers with 21 points on 7-12 shooting. He was joined in double figures by swingman Christian Thomas, who poured in 16.
Mississippi State was outrebounded and harassed into 37.5% shooting. Fred Thomas and Roquez Johnson combined to score 27 points for the visiting team, but got little help from foul-prone teammates.
Players from the original Game of Change attended the rematch, and were on court when the starting lineups for today’s teams were announced.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.