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The Greatest Game Print E-mail

by John C. Thomas

Saturday, February 16, 1963 - Loyola (Chicago) vs. Bowling Green at Bowling Green

After the nail-biting overtime victory over Marquette at the Stadium to preserve their perfect record, the 21-0 Loyola Ramblers set out on a nine-day road trip to Bowling Green, New York City, and Houston. It was going to be a 3400-mile trip to three diverse venues with markedly different teams and opposing crowds.

Loyola hosted Bowling Green and their dynamic center Nate Thurmond in the 1961-62 season, and recovered after a horrible start to win the game 81-68.

"We beat them the year before at our place, and they thought we 'jobbed' them with the officials," Miller remembers. "In those days, there was a lot of that. In those days teams would have their local officials that would really job you, and I think that's what Bowling Green thought we did to them [in 1961-62]."

Thurmond had led the Falcons to the NCAA Tournament as the Mid-American Conference champion as a junior in 1961-62, and had Bowling Green in contention for the MAC title as a senior in 1962-63. In an era where the average major college basketball center was around 6'8" and 210 pounds, the 6'11", 235-pound Akron native was a monster.

The jam-packed homecoming game crowd of 5,734 at Memorial Hall chanted, "We Want Loyola" to fire up their squad against the #2 ranked team in the country. Bowling Green, led by Hall of Fame coach Harold Anderson, played the classic inside-outside game against the Ramblers. Thurmond averaged over 17 points and over 17 rebounds per game in the center position. When the Ramblers-- the tallest of whom was Les Hunter at 6'7"-- put bodies on Thurmond, it left outside shooter Howard Komives wide open, and Komives hit with regularity.

Bowling Green streaked out to a 9-0 lead, which invigorated their already fevered crowd. The Falcons hit on seven of their first eight shots from the field. And then Komives went on a binge, scoring 23 first-half points as the Ramblers were left shell-shocked. Bowling Green led 29-12 before Loyola cut the deficit to 47-35 at the half.

The Ramblers' game plan changed in the second half, but Bowling Green was ready. Thurmond was held to six points in the first half under a double-team of Les Hunter and Vic Rouse, but he exploded in the second half as the Ramblers drifted out to guard Komives. The Falcons then pounded the ball inside to Thurmond, who scored 18 second-half points. Even with increased defensive pressure on the outside shooters, Komives scored nine more points.

Bowling Green not only beat the #2 team in the country, they destroyed them, 92-75. After 22 games, the Ramblers finally found out what it felt like to be on the receiving end of a merciless beating. And for the second game in a row, Loyola didn't receive a single point off the bench.

"They just beat us," recalls Egan. "They were prepared for us-we didn't play especially bad, but they were very hot and they had a good team. They had Thurmond and Komives, and the refs on the road are a little tougher. All their players played well, and we played pretty average-- they should have beaten us. There was no fluke about it, they just beat us."

"They were poised for us, because we had beat them the year before, it was their homecoming game, and everything was just perfect for it," Ron Miller reflected. "I think they could have beat the second best pro team that night."

Komives led all scorers with 32, and Thurmond had 24. Hunter led Loyola with 24, and Harkness had 21. Loyola still won the battle of the boards 45-38, but that was mostly due to the high shooting percentage by the Falcons.

Lost in the disappointment of the first loss of the season was the fact that Jerry Harkness passed Jack Kerris for the all-time Loyola scoring title. Harkness' 21 points put him at 1560 on his career, surpassing Kerris' 1556.

Another saving grace of the evening was the news that #1 Cincinnati, the only other undefeated team in the country, had fallen by one point, 65-64 at Wichita State. The Bearcats had a 64-58 lead with 1:32 left to play, but instead of playing conservatively, the Bearcats turned over the ball and compounded their errors with fouls. It was Wichita State that held on to the ball while time wound down-- reversing the tables on the Bearcats in front of 10,639 screaming Wichita fans-- to end Cincinnati's undefeated season and 37-game winning streak.

Copyright 2002, John C. Thomas. Courtesy Ramblermania.com

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