Missouri State 72, Loyola-Chicago 56

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Junior forward Christian Kirk came off the bench to score 16 points, leading Missouri State to a 72-56 victory over visiting Loyola-Chicago on Tuesday night at JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo.

Kirk led three players who scored in double figures for Missouri State (19-10, 9-8 Missouri Valley Conference), which has won two in a row heading into Saturday’s showdown with No. 2 Wichita State. Senior forward Keith Pickens scored 14 points and senior forward Jarmar Gulley had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior guard Tony Nixon scored 15 points for Loyola (9-20, 4-13), which has lost five in a row and eight of its last nine. Junior guard Joe Crisman scored 14 points.

Missouri State took the lead on a jumper by Gulley 21 seconds into the game and never trailed. Loyola briefly tied the game at 16-16 on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Matt O’Leary with 11:27 to play in the opening period, but the Bears responded with a 7-0 run and took a 23-16 lead when Kirk converted a three-point play with 8:20 to go.

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The Bears stretched their lead to 10 on another three-point play by Kirk moments later and took a 41-27 lead into the locker room at the break after freshman guard Austin Ruder made a 3-pointer as time expired in the opening half. The Ramblers shot 52.2 percent from the field in the first half, but the Bears shot 57.1 percent.

Loyola outscored Missouri State 9-2 over the first five minutes of the second half to cut the deficit to seven, but the Bears mounted an 8-2 run to go up 51-38 on a dunk by Kirk with 11:03 remaining. The Ramblers again cut the deficit to single digits on a number of occasions over the final 10 minutes, but the Bears withstood the charge each time.