‘Bigger Than The Game’: Michigan Basketball Plans Touching Tribute For Rivalry Matchup With Spartans Days After MSU Shooting

When the Maize and Blue face off against their in-state nemesis Michigan State Spartans, families divide and tempers flare. But when the two rivals meet on the basketball court in Ann Arbor on Saturday, the century-old hostilities will take a back seat.

In the wake of the shooting that took three lives on Michigan State’s campus earlier this week, the University of Michigan has planned to honor the victims and show support for its rival school during its annual basketball game against the Spartans at Crisler Arena.

Michigan is preparing a host of recognitions for MSU, including “specially designed team warm-up shirts,” a “Spartan Strong” flag displayed in the Michigan student section, the Michigan band learning and playing MSU’s fight song, and a moment of silence for the victims.

Special things slated for Saturday’s game with Michigan State ….

✔️ Honoring the Michigan State victims and community 💚💙
✔️ A Maize Out
✔️ 2013 Final Four Reunion

〽️🏀 #ForCompetitorsOnly#GoBlue #SpartanStrong pic.twitter.com/ett6CEUh3Y

— Michigan Men’s Basketball (@umichbball) February 16, 2023

Students Brian Fraser, Alexandria Verner, and Arielle Anderson were killed, and five others were injured Monday night after a 43-year-old man opened fire on students at two locations on the Michigan State campus. The suspect, who was unaffiliated with the university according to police, later committed suicide.

Michigan State University canceled classes through the end of the week, and the men’s basketball team postponed a home game scheduled for Wednesday against Minnesota as the campus reels from the tragedy. The Spartans’ game against Michigan will be its first time taking the court since the shooting.

Long-time Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said that after talking with mental health professionals earlier this week, they decided that it’s important for the team to play to begin the healing process.

“We’ve had a lot of help from some mental health professionals that I think really helped me,” Izzo remarked on Thursday. “They felt that if (MSU’s basketball team) played it would help not only themselves, the team, but maybe the campus heal a little better. And so we agreed that would be our battle cry.”

The legendary MSU figure added that playing on Saturday against Michigan will represent far more than another rivalry game.

“There’s some things that aren’t rivalries. There’s some things that are bigger than the game,” he said. “The game is gonna be really important to me, as it has been for all 28 years I’ve been here. But there’ll be a little asterisk on it. And I’m gonna have to do a good job of holding my emotions, their emotions. Everybody’s emotions.”

Despite the game taking on a much bigger meaning after the tragedy that unfolded in East Lansing, Michigan head coach Juwan Howard is still expecting a hard-fought contest.

“I expect two competitive teams to still go out there and compete,” Howard said on Friday, according to MLive. “Me and Coach Izzo … we put our hearts into our players and helping them go through whatever they go through, and preparing them to play the game they truly love.”

“We know once that ball goes up it’s going to be all about the game of basketball, and both teams trying to, at the end of day, win,” he added.

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