Saturday night’s Michigan-MSU basketball game was filled with a ton of emotion. Not only because of how strong this rivalry is, but mainly because it was the Spartans’ first game following the mass shooting on their campus on Monday.
The pre-game efforts included lighting up Crisler Center green, giving a moment of silence for the victims, and much more.
.@MSU_Basketball returned to the court for the first time since the campus shooting.— CBS Sports College Basketball (@CBSSportsCBB) February 19, 2023
Here’s a look at how @umichbball fans became Spartan Strong pic.twitter.com/raXZJ3KbiH
The Spartans canceled their game against Minnesota on Wednesday, hadn’t practiced much this week and hadn’t played in a game since last Sunday. Still, MSU showed resilience and played tough, but came up short to the Michigan Wolverines, 84-72.
In his postgame press conference, MSU head coach Tom Izzo was effusive for what the Spartans’ chief rival did for them to commemorate the university and the victims of the shooting before the game began.
“I’d like to thank the University of Michigan for the things they did on our behalf, from our university and students, the three deceased students, the ones that are in the hospital. And I thought it was a very classy move on their part. I appreciated that,” Izzo said.
As far as how the game went, Michigan guards Kobe Bufkin and Dug McDaniel each played a huge role. Bufkin contributed 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while McDaniel scored a career-high 18 points, as well as four assists, four rebounds, one steal and zero turnovers.
Three of Bufkin’s 17 points came on what was potentially the most important play of the game — a wildly-made three-pointer to give Michigan a three-point lead with just under two minutes to go.
Tied game with 2 minutes left. Then this ridiculousness from Kobe Bufkin.— Brendan Quinn (@BFQuinn) February 19, 2023
One of the best, biggest shots I've seen in this rivalry. Absurd. pic.twitter.com/PrVRBy0PTu
It was the spark the Wolverines needed to finish the game strong, as they never gave up that lead, nor did they even give up points the rest of the game.
Izzo described Bufkin’s shot as a prayer that was answered.
“1:57 left and (Bufkin) hits a Hail Mary,” Izzo said in his postgame press conference. “We didn’t respond from there. The final score was not indicative of the game, but they deserved to win the game because they did it fair and square. I respect that.
“Give Michigan credit, give Kobe credit. The shot he hit in front of the bench with no time left on the shot clock — it’ll go in one in 100 times and he made it. Give him credit.”
The sophomore guard from Grand Rapids has been Michigan’s most consistent player over the course of Big Ten play, if not the entire season. He has scored double-digit points in every game in February and has only missed that make four times this calendar year. It’s one of the many reasons Bufkin has started showing up on NBA mock drafts recently.
Izzo also had some nice things to say about Michigan’s freshman point guard. In the first meeting between the Spartans and Wolverines, McDaniel put up a nothing burger — zero points at the Breslin Center. Since that first meeting in East Lansing, Izzo acknowledged McDaniel has grown on the court.
“I think he’s improved a lot, but I think when you start off with seven in a row, mostly on our mistakes — and (I’m) not taking anything away, I thought he played a brilliant game — but I thought we let him get off to a good start,” Izzo said. “You have a young kid with confidence and he ran with it, I’ll give him credit.”
If the Wolverines want any shot at getting into the NCAA Tournament, they will need more consistent performances out of their young guards. That will all start with a Quad 1 game on Thursday evening when they travel to Piscataway to take on Rutgers.