The in-state rivalry between Michigan State and Michigan hasn’t waned, but some of the ill will between the schools will be put aside when their men’s basketball teams square off Saturday night in Ann Arbor, Mich.
There will be displays of unity as the home team honors the victims of the mass shooting that took place on the Michigan State campus Monday night. Among other tributes, Michigan players will wear special warmup shirts and its student section will don specially designed T-shirts.
“You can hate your rivals. That’s the way it’s supposed to be, as long as you respect them,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “It’s going to be an emotional day, I’m sure, for everybody. From what I’ve heard, I greatly appreciate the support I’ve gotten from the University of Michigan.”
This will be the Spartans’ first game since the tragedy. Michigan State’s home game against Minnesota on Wednesday was postponed. Izzo believes that getting back on the court can help the healing process for his university.
“You’ve just got to figure out a way to honor the people that were senselessly killed,” he said. “Our way of being able to do that is to play the game.”
Michigan State (16-9, 8-6 Big Ten) needs to heat up to improve its projected seed for the NCAA Tournament. Michigan (14-12, 8-7) needs a strong finish just to get consideration for an at-large bid.
“Both teams are playing for a lot right now,” Izzo said.
The Spartans have won their last two games, including a 62-41 victory at Ohio State on Sunday. They won the first matchup against the Wolverines 59-53 on Jan. 7 in East Lansing. Guards A.J. Hoggard and Tyson Walker combined for 29 points and eight assists.
Michigan has dropped its last two games — a one-point home loss to Indiana and a five-point road defeat at Wisconsin.
“It’s tough to win on the road when you give a team extra possessions like the way we did with 14 offensive rebounds and then 12 turnovers,” Wolverines coach Juwan Howard said. “The turnovers were very undisciplined for us because, typically, we usually take care of the basketball.”
Following Saturday’s game, Michigan will play three of its four remaining regular-season games on the road.
–Field Level Media