The Michigan women’s basketball team has been playing historically well this season. The Wolverines’ 21-5 record is its best in program history up to this point of the season, and is only one win shy of tying another program record for most wins in a season.

Undoubtedly, the allure of Michigan’s NCAA Tournament prospects paired with the competition against elite teams in Division I have been at the forefront of the players’ minds as the end of the regular season draws near.

But even they realize that the physical and mental hardships of playing competitive basketball pale in comparison to the challenges that were shared with them this weekend during their annual Pink Game against Wisconsin, when they got to talk with breast cancer survivors prior to the matchup.

“It’s just so inspiring to see how positive they are,” said sophomore guard Nicole Munger. “They were laughing and having a great time. We think basketball’s hard, and it’s really just for fun. They’re fighting the real fight.”

The Pink Game is held each year as a part of the team’s philanthropic effort to raise breast cancer awareness and celebrate survivors of the disease. During the game, both teams don pink garments during warmups and the game — the Wolverines rocked pink and white Air Jordan XXXI basketball shoes. Even fans were involved, as a sea of pink shirts of all shades flooded Crisler Center to witness Michigan’s 75-66 win.

“I remember just standing on the court and just looking up and seeing all the pink and thinking ‘It’s bigger than Michigan,’ ” Munger said. “This is bigger than Michigan. This is bigger than us. It’s just really cool to being playing for something greater and bigger than yourself.”

When the Wolverines’ starting lineup was announced, the jumbotron — newly draped in pink background graphics — didn’t show the typical highlight reel accompanied with video snippets of the players flashing their handles in the locker room tunnel. Rather, six different breast cancer survivors were displayed on screen, reading off the names of the Michigan players and coaches.

And when the ball was finally tipped, the roar of the crowd and intensity of the game had a gusto unlike any of the Wolverines’ previous contests, especially during halftime, when breast cancer survivors of all ages were introduced and applauded on the court.

“I thought our crowd was outstanding and I thought we had an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico. “The day and the things that we do to celebrate the breast cancer survivors is really special.”

The day before the game, when a handful of the survivors that were on the court spoke and ate dinner with the team, the message of gratefulness resonated the most, according to Barnes Arico.

“It’s so impactful how these women can come and share their stories with 18-to-22 year-old girls that think they’re invincible,” Barnes Arico said. “At this point in their lives, most of them havent really had any major obstacles or any hardship, and to hear from young women that just have had children to old women that it doesn’t discriminate.

“It can happen to anyone. And to really make sure to know your body and to have a great appreciation and great work ethic and a great attitude to everything in your life is important.”

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