EAST LANSING Chris Young couldn”t even put into words his feelings after yet another loss to the Spartans last night.

“I”m breathing, that”s the only good thing that I can say right now,” a somber Young said.

He isn”t joking. The loss came in admittedly the “biggest game of his life,” and the ramifications of the latest 27-point drubbing went far beyond what any box score could indicate.

“For me personally, it was not just another game,” Young said. “This was one of the biggest games of my life, and I can”t believe that I might graduate from the University of Michigan without beating Michigan State.”

Barring any unexpected matchup with the Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament, Young will be a member of the only senior class in the program”s 93-year history that did not beat the Spartans at least once in their career.

To make matters worse, for most of the first half the only thing that Young could do was sit and watch. Two quick fouls forced him into the uncomfortable spectator position for most of the first half, as the senior helplessly yelled at his teammates to no avail.

“It was extremely tough,” Young said. “I was sitting next to Leon, and we were going crazy because we both had fouls and couldn”t do anything about it.”

Young fought and willed Michigan back to within five points with just over 10 minutes to go in the first half, but that was as close as the Wolverines would get the rest of the way. The Spartans went on a 19-6 run to end the half with Young on the bench for all but 30 seconds of the run.

“Chris is the bread and butter of our team,” said junior Gavin Groninger, who is also Young”s roommate and one of his best friends. “And when he”s not in, we”re not the same.”

Young is more than the bread and butter, he”s the heart and soul of the Michigan basketball team. He”s the glue that keeps the Wolverines together in the tough moments, probably because he”s been through more than anyone could ever imagine.

Steve Fisher, the coach who recruited Young, was fired before the Plymouth native could ever don the maize and blue. But Young didn”t waver. He”s a Michigan man, and that was never going to change. No one ever questions his heart, dedication or effort.

“I wish everyone could play with the heart that Chris does,” Groninger said. “Then outcomes would be a lot different.”

Young”s been through three head coaches, an Ed Martin scandal, two losing seasons and four of the five worst losses in the program”s history. He”s sacrificed a lot for Michigan, even up to this year. Tommy Amaker is trying to rebuild the program, pleading for patience from everyone. But that”s hard for Young to give, since he doesn”t have that much time left.

His time has run out with Michigan State, but even after suffering four-straight 20-point losses to the Spartans coming into this game, last night was still the toughest for Young.

It was admittedly his best chance to beat them on their own floor. But it didn”t happen, despite Young”s 13 points. Without him in the game, the Michigan offense sputtered and huddled around the perimeter recording a season-low 44 points.

In a few months, Michigan won”t have Young on the floor anymore. He”s 19 credits from graduating and will leave with an empty feeling. Young said he”d never return to Breslin unless one of his kids plays for Michigan.

That very well could happen.

Well before then, the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry will be competitive once again. The Wolverines could even knock off the Spartans next year in Crisler. The gap is closing regardless of what the 27-point margin indicates.

But it”ll be too late for Young, who admits there”s only one thing that can complete or save his career.

“A national championship,” said Young. “From where I sit and where I”m at, that”s the only thing that can.”

It”s just too bad it won”t happen for Young a true Michigan man.

Joe Smith can be reached at josephms@umich.edu

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