December 14, 2012

Bulldogs prepare for The Game of Change

Mississippi State will travel to the Windy City this weekend to take on Loyola for just the second time in school history.

The first meeting came 50 years ago and was an historic occasion. Not only was the matchup the Bulldogs first appearance ever in the NCAA Tournament but also defied an unwritten state law forbidding MSU from playing against integrated opponents.

In 1963, the Bulldogs and then head coach Babe McCarthy secretly snuck out of Starkville despite an injunction to travel to East Lansing, Mich., to take on Loyola in the Big Dance.

But the historical significance of that contest has long since been forgotten for the most part. Saturday's game however serves as a reminder to a new generation of players and coaches, including first year State coach Rick Ray.

"Obviously this is an important game coming up for us," Ray said. "It's a significant game in the history of Mississippi State basketball and also in the NCAA. We've been trying to educate our guys of the significance of this game and the historical perspective of it. Coming to Mississippi State even I didn't know about 'the game of change'. I assumed that if I didn't know then our guys didn't either. It's been a learning experience for them."

Ray and his staff have been quick to point out to their players that this game is not just an ordinary outing.

"We watched the documentary and we've been giving those guys handouts," Ray said. "We always get together before and after practice to talk about the game. We're going to have some guest speakers come in that were involved in the basketball game once they get to Chicago. We've invited some of those guys to our shoot around so they'll get a chance to interact with them there. I just think it's a great learning experience for our guys."

Saturday's game also holds an importance for the Bulldogs of being on the road. Mississippi State is 0-5 in games played away from Humphrey Coliseum this season, which is the site of their only three wins on the year.

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