EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan State men’s basketball team returned to the Breslin Center Tuesday night for the first time since a deadly shooting on campus that killed three and seriously injured five others.
Eight seats remained empty to honor the victims.
It was a game bigger than the sport itself; when the team took the court, they carried all of Spartan nation with them.
“Tonight’s very important basketball wise but it’s not really because of the game,” MSU basketball fan Bobby Couturier said.
MSU ultimately won over Indiana University, 80-65.
“Sports really do bring people together and having this crowd tonight, I think it will show that, ‘OK, things are going to be OK, everyone here is going through the same thing and it will be alright,'” another MSU basketball fan, Braeden Vrane, said.
A moment of silence was held in honor of the victims.
“To support the kids that passed away and their families, and those who are still ill and waiting to be rehabbed and to the Spartan family as a whole, I think is very important,” Indiana University graduate and MSU fan Dan Hanton said.
Thousands of Spartan fans filled the Breslin Center, most wearing white as a symbol of unity. Both teams wore ‘Spartan Strong’ shirts, and MSU athletes passed out stickers with the same message to fans.
“The whole community coming together to show love and support in these tough times, it’s definitely much needed. Schools have been reaching out, a lot of people have been reaching out, and that’s something we definitely need” MSU football player Jaden Mangham said.
One fan at the game said what MSU has gone through has made him look at his own life from a new perspective.
“Tomorrow is not guaranteed, so you have to really think about life in a different perspective like that and I think it opened my eyes, and I’m sure it opened everybody else’s here,” Vrane said.
Fans say the healing process won’t be quick, but they know the Spartans will get through it.
“We’re a Spartan family, we’re Spartan strong and this is what we do, we fight through adversity. So we’ll get through this but it’ll take time,” Couturier said.
Before the game, MSU head basketball coach Tom Izzo said he is encouraging his team to be open about how they feel.
“I show my emotions good or bad. I’m not to afraid to, but it’s taken a few years, probably. Most athletes do not show their emotions like that, especially in a sad way, because it’s ‘male testosterone.’ We’re supposed be so tough and handle every problem. The toughest guy in the world can’t handle these problems,” Izzo said. “It has nothing to do with strength, it has nothing to do with toughness. I just try to tell them it’s OK to vent. It’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to communicate about it. Don’t be afraid to tell me how you feel.”
The MSU student band performed at halftime. Money from the 50/50 raffle will support the Spartan Strong fund.
— News 8’s Madalyn Buursma contributed to this report.