ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WOOD) — Despite a highly charged rivalry, the true respect between Michigan and Michigan State and care for one another was shown at the Crisler Center Saturday evening.
On Monday evening, a shooting on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing left three students dead and five injured. The 43-year-old gunman later took his own life when confronted by police.
The Spartan community was left shocked. In the following days, the entire state showed support and solidarity. On Saturday night, one of the biggest gestures came from its biggest rival.
Before the men’s basketball game Saturday night, Michigan showed it stood with Michigan State with a moment of silence, a “Spartan Strong” flag in the student section and “Michigan basketball stands with MSU” warmup shirts.
The Wolverines went on to defeat the Spartans 84-72, but the night was centered around the unity between the two universities.
MSU head coach Tom Izzo couldn’t thank the Wolverine community enough for the support.
“I thought it was a very classy move on their part,” Izzo said, getting emotional at the beginning of his press conference. “I appreciated that. It was an interesting week to say the least and we played the game for two hours and we tried to help MSU alums around the world escape for a couple hours.”
When the Spartans took the court, there was no booing from Michigan fans. The “Maize Rage” understood the moment was bigger than sports and showed love to the Spartans.
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard was proud of how the Wolverine family showed care to the Spartans in a time of need.
“I thought it was very classy of the University of Michigan to show how much we care about Michigan State,” Howard said. “I looked down at coach Izzo and he was getting pretty emotional and it made me feel the same way. I can feel how he’s feeling … But it doesn’t surprise me how the University of Michigan showed that they truly care for others.”
During the 30-second moment of silence, Izzo was fighting back tears as the Michigan student section cheered for MSU holding were signs that read, “Love you brother” and “We are with you, MSU.”
As for the game itself, there was nothing unusual. The Wolverines and Spartans battled back and forth in a game with nine lead changes. MSU took a 36-33 lead into the halftime locker room. In the second half, the Wolverines hung around, yet the Spartans led by as many as eight points when the clock ticked under seven minutes to play. For a majority of the season, the Wolverines have let close games get away from them. This time, they went and got the win. Michigan outscored MSU 15-0 in the closing minutes, earning the split between the two teams this season with a 12-point victory.
Grand Rapids native Kobe Bufkin, who hit a huge contested 3-pointer late in the game to give Michigan a 75-72 lead, said it was a game that they had to stay focused on winning, but still care for their neighbor down the road.
“We had to try and stay composed because obviously Michigan State isn’t a regular opponent,” Bufkin said. “However, what happened at MSU was a tragedy. We’re rivals and all, but we wanted them to know we still support them.”
Bufkin had 17 points (the second-most on his team behind Dug McDaniel’s 18 points) and added five rebounds.
For Michigan freshman Terris Reed Jr., who had his biggest game of the season with 8 points and 10 rebounds, this game was unlike anything he’d ever been a part of.
“It was pretty special and unique to cheer on our rivals,” Reed Jr. said. “It was bigger than basketball. What happened at Michigan State was unacceptable and I hope and pray it never happens again. We’re right down the road, who is to say it couldn’t be that guy coming to Michigan? … We need to do something about it, but overall, this night was special to be apart of.”
Anyone who was in the building Saturday night would agree. In a rivalry where neither side likes each other on a day-to-day basis, this was a moment that will be remembered for the love shown when it was needed the most.