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February 17, 2013
Freshmen step out of slump in win over PSU
Trey Burke might be pretty close, but no one is perfect every single night. And the Michigan basketball team's freshmen are beginning to learn that.
Forward Glenn Robinson III and guard Nik Stauskas stormed out of the gate as rookies, lighting up the scoreboard and quickly becoming fan-favorites. Robinson scored at least 10 points in 14 of the Wolverines' first 21 games. During Michigan's 16-game winning streak to start the year, Stauskas hit 46 of his 88 three-point attempts (52.3 percent).
During Michigan's recent skid when it lost three-of-four games, Robinson averaged 4.5 points per game and shot 29.2 percent. In the last 10 games, Stauskas has made 17-of-46 deep shots (36.9 percent).
All the while, Michigan coach John Beilein and veterans like Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr. have stood by the youngsters, saying the two were staying positive and learning how to fight through the slump.
In Sunday afternoon's 79-71 win over Penn State, the duo exploded for 39 points, 21 from Robinson and 18 from Stauskas.
Robinson made all five of his field goal attempts, using off-ball cuts and fastbreak opportunities to find easy buckets, including several crowd-raising alley-oops. Stauskas started slow, missing all three of his three-pointers in the first half, but he caught fire in the second half.
"It was good," Stauskas said. "We had a few games in a row now where we haven't played our best, and we have heard a lot from the media and fans that we need to get more involve and we have to get into a rhythm. So it was definitely good to get some easy buckets and get back on the scoreboard."
For Robinson, it wasn't so much about regaining confidence - which he says he never lost - but just validating the skills he knows he has.
"In practice, I was still doing what I normally do," he said. "I hadn't been getting the looks I was before maybe. But different guys step up in different games, and today was my day to step up."
A large part of Robinson's mid-seasons struggles can be contributed to the ways in which teams are learning to defend him.
Opponents now have 26 games worth of tape to watch, break down and figure out his traits, strengths and weaknesses.
Veterans can easily identify defensive strategies on the fly. For a young player like Robinson, it's easier said than done.
"A lot of people know I like to cut to the basket, and they kind of sag off me, and those open shots weren't there," Robinson said. "I have to keep adjusting to that and working on it."
"Everyone will guard him a little differently," Beilein added. 'They guard Trey a little differently. Every game is different. You need the experience of being able to say, 'Oh, OK. They're doing it like they did three games ago.' To do that takes a long time to learn all those things. I love what he gives us. He's an energy player. He's a slasher, a burner. He gives us a lot in the fast break. He gives us a quickness that a lot of teams want, and he guards people."
Burke has seen Robinson go through similar struggles that he did at times last year.
Freshman year - especially for players who are expected to contribute at such a high level - can be a grind.
And Robinson is learning that on the go.
"He's a great player," Burke said. "I had the same type of games last year. As a freshman, you have those kinds of nights. It's something you learn from. The type of athlete and player he is, you know he can contribute on any night. I just try to give him confidence out there. When he's playing with confidence and not worrying about other things, he's very hard to guard, to stop. When he's not pump-faking, when he has a shot he shoots it with confidence, he has games like he had today."
Players like Cazzie Russell, Phiul Hubbard, Glen Rice, Darius Morris and Zack Novak were at the game.
As part of the festivities, the Wolverines wore throwback uniforms - and several of the Wolverines took it one step farther. Burke, Robinson, Hardaway, Mitch McGary and several others got high-top fades to complete the old-school look.
"It was something to do with the old-school look," Burke said. "We knew we were wearing the old-school jerseys today. We tried to go with the high-top fade. It didn't have anything to do with swagger - we don't really have a problem with that."
"That was a little team thing," added Robinson. "The alumni had that back in the day, so we went with it. It was a throwback night, so we went with it."
"Without a doubt," Stauskas said. "Obviously, we can't make any excuses. But we lost on a halfcourt shot against Wisconsin, and we have had some tough losses. No one shot or game is going to get our confidence down. We're going to keep working hard. We feel like we can win every game from here on out. We just have to keep working and I think we'll be fine."