It was an emotional scene Saturday night before one of the best rivalries in sports, as Michigan and Michigan State came together to honor the victims in the school shooting on MSU’s campus Monday night.
Michigan did a number of things to honor the victims, including wearing special warm-up uniforms, the pep band learning and performing MSU’s alma mater, and lighting up the Crisler Center green and white before the game.
Tom Izzo during the pregame tribute and moment of silence is everything. Basketball is simply secondary tonight. pic.twitter.com/wwxqPxqUB0— Jeanna Trotman (@JeannaTrotmanTV) February 19, 2023
Juwan Howard saw Tom Izzo taking in the emotional moment, and felt for him.
“It was very classy of the University of Michigan to really show how much we as a community care about the Michigan State community, enduring such a tragic loss to those men and women” said Howard in his postgame press conference. “I was looking at coach Izzo, seeing how emotional he got during ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing.’ I started to get a little emotional myself because I understand that it really hit close to home for him and his players. I grieve with them this weekend, as far as this weekend, it does get to a little normalcy. Overall, I really admire how our players were considerate and kind.”
After that emotional tribute, Michigan was able to pull off the win, going on a 15-5 run to earn an 84-72 victory. Freshman center Tarris Reed Jr. was proud of how his team was able to finish strong after having issues winning close games all season long.
“Knowing how this season has been going, we have not been able to finish games,” Reed said. “When the opportunity presented itself, we knew we were going to finish up, especially against a rival team. Even though what happened against Michigan State was tragic, I’m grateful and thankful that they decided to play the game. We just had to go out there and finish it.”
Reed Jr. had the best game of his young Michigan tenure with eight points, 10 rebounds and a burst of energy off the bench the Wolverines fed off. His head coach loved the way he played and feels there’s even more potential to unlock.
“Tarris, he’s scratching the surface,” Howard said. “ I see the confidence is increasing, getting better. Sometimes we expect freshman to play well every time all the time, but it takes time with this game. I’m just so proud of him.”
Reed Jr. wasn’t the only Michigan freshman who made an impact. His roommate, Dug McDaniel, led the Wolverines with a career-high 18 points, including their first seven to breathe life into Michigan’s offense.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Reed Jr. said when asked about McDaniel. “Talked about it last night, talked about it earlier this week about how at Michigan State, he didn’t play as well. I knew he was going to come out with fire. I wasn’t even surprised.”
We’ve seen both freshmen step up a lot more as the year has gone on. With McDaniel, Howard stressed the importance of making sure he slows down and processes what’s happening on the floor.
“He made some tough shots, but he also allowed the game to come to him,” Howard said. “Not saying he didn’t before, but when he set the tone the way he did, the guys really rallied behind Dug.”
McDaniel is not the only freshman whose worked on slowing things down and letting the game come to him. Reed Jr. always wants to play fast, and he said Howard has done good job making sure he’s not playing too fast.
“I felt like I’ve always been able to do this, it’s just about me playing at my own pace, talking to coach and slowing down,” he said. “I’m still out there sometimes rushing to shoot up shots, but knowing I got to let the game come to me. That’s what coach Howard told me — I got to slow down sometimes, find a pace to compete. That’s what I’m going to be able to do.”
It’s no secret the Wolverines still have an up-hill battle to make the NCAA Tournament, especially with three of their next four games being on the road against top-30 teams in the NET rankings. Saturday’s victory was huge, but the Wolverines have to keep the good times rolling to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“Feels okay, but like I said, we’re still in a bad position and a tough predicament right now,” Reed Jr. said. “We still have more road games than home games and we have to win those games to make the tournament. Overall, this is a little momentum booster for our coming games.”