EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State women’s basketball players wiped away tears as they stood shoulder to shoulder during a moment of silence before losing to No. 8 Maryland 66-61 on Saturday, less than a week after three students were killed in a shooting on campus.
“I’m really proud of us for just showing up,” said Julia Ayrault, who led the Spartans with 15 points. “It’s hard to come back and play a game that seems so small.”
Diamond Miller scored 29 points and helped the Terrapins (22-5, 13-3 Big Ten) hold on for the win after leading by 16 points in the second half.
“We knew today would be extremely emotional,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “Michigan State was one possession away from taking this game from us.”
The Spartans (13-13, 5-10) rallied to have a chance at pulling off an upset, coming up short after DeeDee Hagerman missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
“They’re strong,” Miller said. “They’re resilient. They did not stop.”
Michigan State players wore white shirts with “Spartan Strong” and the school’s logo in green during warmups while coaches, support staff, administrators, cheerleaders and mascot sported the tops all 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 crash last month. “We wanted this to be a healing event for our community.”
The victims, and survivors, were honored with pregame remarks as athletic events resumed on a campus and community reeling from the tragedy. On Saturday, four of the wounded students remained in critical condition at a Lansing hospital and one was still hospitalized in stable condition.
Funerals were held earlier in the day for Brian Fraser and Alexandria Verner while Arielle Anderson’s funeral is scheduled for next week. They were among eight students shot two buildings that are one-third of a mile apart on winding sidewalks on campus.
Police say Anthony McRae, a 43-year-old man with no connection to the school, went into Berkey Hall where evening classes were being held and opened fire in a classroom then walked about 5 minutes away to the MSU Student Union and fired more shots before fleeing and dying from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
The union, which would normally be open on a Saturday afternoon, had signs in the door windows that informed visitors it was closed until further notice.
Red and yellow flowers were placed in door handles at the northern entrance and on the other side, and a slew of flower bouquets were strewn on the steps on a sun-splashed, relatively warm afternoon. Near the Berkey Hall sign, flowers and candles were placed in a tree bed where Michigan State graduate Pedro Kuyenga bowed his head for a few minutes.
“I prayed for the souls of the students who left unexpectedly and sadly,” he said. “I prayed to give the affected families comfort, and the knowledge and wisdom to the hospital staff helping the students recover.”
Streams of people also visited “The Rock,” a community gathering place that has become a makeshift memorial in the days since the attack, and the Spartan Statue, where a sea of flowers have been placed this week.
The Michigan State men’s basketball team, which like the women had a game postponed earlier in the week, traveled to play rival Michigan on the road Saturday night.
The rivalry rested during a poignant pregame in Ann Arbor, were 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 that were given to fans.
“I thought it was a very classy move on their part,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said after losing to Michigan 84-72.
The Wolverines, and their student section, wore maize shirts with Michigan Basketball Stands with MSU across the chest.
Maryland: Miller, the Big Ten player of the week, needs more teammates to make shots than they did Saturday to make a deep run in the 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 on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes handed the Terrapins a 96-82 loss two weeks ago.
Michigan State: Host Minnesota on Wednesday, the last home game for the Spartans
Spartans pregame ceremony honors 3 killed in campus shooting originally appeared on NBCSports.com