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Juwan Howard discusses tragedy at MSU, preparing for rematch with Spartans

A lot is happening tomorrow night at Crisler Center.

Ohio State v Michigan Photo by Aaron J. Thornton/Getty Images

An emotional game will be played Saturday night at the Crisler Center. Not only will it be a rematch between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans, but it will be the first time the Spartans return to the floor since the deadly shooting on campus on Monday night.

Michigan will honor the tragic school shooting that killed three students and hospitalized five more at MSU earlier this week in a number of ways:

  • Warm-up shirts for Michigan
  • Specially-designed t-shirts for Maize Rage & student ticket holders
  • A moment of silence before the game
  • A 12x8 foot “Spartan Strong” Flag in the Maize Rage student section
  • The U-M Pep Band learning and performing MSU’s alma mater
  • Lighting Crisler Center Green & White during the moment of silence, using programmable LED wristbands that will be distributed to all fans upon entry

In his media availability Friday, Juwan Howard had this to say about the tragedy:

“Right now it’s not about the sport, it’s about life,” Howard said. “Unfortunately there were those that were lost during such strategy. It hit home, very close to home for us. This is not easy, this is a tough one that we’re all dealing with. I say ‘we all’ because our heart goes out to the Michigan State family and also, more importantly, our condolences go to the family of the lost ones. This is not one of those where you think about the sport, you think about the people.”

This will be the second time the Wolverines will honor shooting victims after a tragedy at another school. They wore special warm-up jerseys before the Virginia game to honor the members of the Virginia football team that lost their lives in a school shooting that killed three and injured two.

The Howard family had a personal connection to that shooting.

“Knowing one of the players that was killed in that shooting, having my boys play with him in high school and knowing the mom and dad, that one hit really close to home,” Howard said. “We’re just going to be there to support (Michigan State) like we’ve been from Day 1 and at the same time, understanding that sports do help in a lot of ways to give that therapy to take your mind away from what just happened. It’s not easy until you start dealing with it yourself.”

Preparing for rematch with Michigan State

In their first game against the Spartans, the Wolverines got into foul trouble, couldn’t capitalize off open threes and turned the ball over too much. Since that game, the Wolverines are 5-6 and the Spartans are 5-5. For postseason hopes, this is pretty much a must-win for both teams, but especially for Michigan.

“I know in the first half we struggled to score and kept playing hard defensively. Second half we came out and had a better second half. A big reason for our first half struggles was foul trouble,” Howard said. “We were at full-strength, but unfortunately played catch-up throughout the game. I know there are a lot of things that we can do better.”

When asked about late game offensive struggles, Howard acknowledged this team hasn’t executed well, but emphasized they have a few more chances to get better in crunch time.

“There are players on our team that want to make the right play and want to make the right winning play,” Howard said. “We just haven’t been able to capitalize on it down the stretch. We will continue to work hard, trust one another; those close games haven’t been in our favor but there’s plenty of games to be played.”

As far as Terrance Williams’ status goes after missing the last game with a knee bruise, Howard said he didn’t practice on Thursday and they would see how he feels at Friday’s practice before making a decision.

Game notes

The game against Michigan State tips off at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on FOX. Gus Johnson and Jim Jackson have the call.

At halftime, Michigan will honor the 10-year anniversary of the Wolverines’ 2013 run to the National Championship. Former head coach John Beilein and former players Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr., Nik Stauskas and Spike Albrecht are among those who will be in attendance.

Howard was there at the National Championship, finding a flight from Miami to support that team and see the magical run for himself.

“That was a moment of excitement for those players, the coaches, as well as Michigan’s support staff,” Howard said. “Being in that building in Atlanta, watching those young men and staff go out there and compete against Louisville was remarkable — competitive game. Unfortunately we didn’t come out on the winning side, but I think that team should be recognized for that amazing run. That’s what Michigan family do.”