EAST LANSING, Michigan — The Michigan State women’s basketball players wiped away tears as they stood side by side during a moment of silence before losing to No. 8 Maryland 66-61 on Saturday, less than a week after three female students had been killed in a campus shooting.
“I’m really proud of us showing up,” said Julia Ayrault, who led the Spartans with 15 points. “It’s hard to go back and play a game that feels so small.”
Diamond Miller scored 29 points and helped the Terrapins (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten) hang on to win after leading by 16 points in the second half.
“We knew today was going to be extremely exciting,” said Maryland coach Brenda Frese. “Michigan State was just one possession away from bringing us this game.”
The Spartans (13-13, 5-10) rallied for a chance to pull off an upset, coming up shortly after DeeDee Hagerman missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
“They’re strong,” Miller said. “They are resilient. They didn’t stop.”
Michigan State players wore white T-shirts with “Spartan Strong” and the school logo in green during warmups, while coaches, support staff, administrators, cheerleaders and mascots sported the jerseys throughout the afternoon.
“We all need healing and sports can do that,” said Michigan State acting coach Dean Lockwood, who has filled in for Suzy Merchant since she was in a car accident last month. “We wanted this to be a healing event for our community.”
Victims and survivors were honored with pre-game commentary as athletic events resumed on a campus and the community reeled from the tragedy. On Saturday, four of the injured students remained in critical condition in a Lansing hospital and one was still hospitalized in stable condition.
Funerals were held earlier in the day for Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner, with Arielle Anderson’s funeral scheduled for next week. They were among eight students who shot at two buildings a third of a mile apart on the campus’s twisting sidewalks.
Police say Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old man with no connection to the school, entered Berkey Hall where night classes were held and opened fire in a classroom, then walked away for about 5 minutes to the MSU Student Union and fired more shots before fleeing and dying from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The union, which would normally be open on Saturday afternoons, had signs in its door windows informing visitors that it was closed until further notice.
Red and yellow flowers were placed in the doorknobs at the north entrance and across, an array of bouquets were scattered on the steps on a sunny and relatively warm afternoon. Near the Berkey Hall sign, flowers and candles were placed in a flower bed where Michigan State graduate Pedro Kuyenga bowed his head for a few minutes.
“I prayed for the souls of the students who passed away unexpectedly and sadly,” he said. “I prayed for comfort to affected families and knowledge and wisdom to hospital staff to help students recover.”
Streams of people also visited “The Rock,” a community gathering place that became a makeshift memorial in the days following the attack, and the Spartan statue, where a sea of flowers was placed this week.
The Michigan State men’s basketball team, which like the women had a game postponed earlier in the week, traveled Saturday night to play rival Michigan on the road.
The rivalry came to a head during a touching pre-game in Ann Arbor, where a long moment of silence was broken by the Michigan band playing “MSU Shadows,” while Crisler Arena was dimly lit with green and white lights from LED wristbands which were given to fans.
“I thought it was a very elegant move on their part,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said after they lost to Michigan 84-72.
The Wolverines and their student section wore Michigan Basketball Stands corn shirts with MSU on the chest.
Maryland: Big Ten Player of the Week Miller needs more teammates making shots than Saturday to make deep runs in conference and NCAA Tournaments.
Michigan State Athletic Director Alan Haller said he hoped the game that drew about 3,439 fans gave the grieving community a place to gather after athletic events were canceled earlier in the week.
Maryland: host no. 7 Iowa Tuesday. The Hawkeyes handed the Terrapins a 96-82 loss two weeks ago.
Michigan State: Host Minnesota on Wednesday, the Spartans’ final home game