CHICAGO – In the history of Division 1 men’s basketball, only one time has a team from the State of Illinois captured a championship.

That was 60 years ago on Thursday when a trailblazing squad from Rogers Park put themselves at the top of the college hoops world.

(AP Photo)

On March 23, 1963, Loyola men’s basketball defeated Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Kentucky to win the school’s first and so far only national championship. No other team from Illinois has won a title since and only one other school has appeared in the Division I title game.

On October 4, 2005, the University of Illinois made it to the championship contest only to lose to North Carolina at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Head coach George Ireland’s Loyola team pulled off some history that night in Louisville to do so as they staged a major second half comeback against the Bearcats. Down 45-30 early in the second half, the Ramblers outscored Cincinnati 24-9 the rest of the way to force overtime.

In the extra session, Vic Rouse who would play the hero for Loyola as he put back a missed shot by Les Hunter just ahead of the horn for the championship-winning points.

“It’s over! We Won! We Won! We Won! We won the ball game!” is what the announcer of the game screamed after the forward put the ball through the hoop for the victory as teammates and fans mobbed him at half court at Freedom Hall.

Their 15-point rally in the second half to win was the NCAA Division I men’s basketball record until it was broken by Kansas in the 2022 national championship in New Orleans.

(Photo by Rich Clarkson/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images)

Loyola’s championship game victory capped a trailblazing season in which the Ramblers finished 29-2 overall. They were also credited with playing a big part in the integration of college basketball since the team regularly had 3-to-4 Black starters.

That was against the traditional “agreement” that teams would only play two Black players at a time, but Ireland wasn’t deterred and sported the lineup through five NCAA Tournament games. In their Mideast Regional semifinal game in East Lansing, they took part in the famed “Game of Change” where they faced a Mississippi State team that defied a state law prohibiting them from facing teams with Black players.

They’d defeat the Bulldogs 61-51, one of five victories they’d get in NCAA Tournament, including the championship contest 60 years ago Thursday.

Larry Hawley has more on that in this edition of #WGNTBT from WGN News Now in the video above.