UM's Beilein says cold Robinson has hit a 'wall'

Tony Paul, and Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — Michigan coach John Beilein dismissed the idea not too long ago.

On Saturday, he changed his tune regarding the shooting woes of Duncan Robinson.

"These are these walls that guys hit during the season," Beilein said.

Robinson, the sophomore transfer who absolutely torched the competition in nonconference play, has struggled mightily of late — missing all three of his 3-point attempts in an 89-73 loss to No. 10 Michigan State at Crisler Center.
That follows 1-for-5 performances in a loss to Indiana and a win over Penn State.

Once in Big Ten play — the win over then-No. 3 Maryland — he's shot better than 50 percent on 3-pointers, after shooting better than 60 percent, collectively, in nonleague play.

Michigan struggled to get him open Saturday, as the word is definitely out on him.

But a weird thing's happening.

When he does get open — as he did at least twice Saturday — he still is missing, and often badly.

Robinson chalked that up recently to being too timid, to thinking too much.

Beilein has chalked it up at times to Robinson shooting too much in the gym on his off-days, and has done his best to keep him out of the gym except on days the team is practicing.

But until Saturday, Beilein dismissed the "hitting the wall" idea.

It's definitely a concern now for a team that needs as many shooters as possible, especially with no word on when, or if, Caris LeVert will return.

Beilein didn't put it all on Robinson. The team, collectively, 8-for-28 on 3-pointers — yes, Bryn Forbes made as many 3s as the Wolverines did.

Too many Michigan players took hurried, contested shots, and the result was predictable.

With Robinson, Beilein pointed out he's at his best in transition.

And, well ...

"If you don't get any stops ..., " Beilein said. "People are gonna lock, people are gonna get him. We were trying to get him as open as we could."

LeVert still out

LeVert sat out his 10th consecutive game with a lower-left leg injury.

Beilein still refuses to give any timetable on a possible return, but the fact LeVert couldn't even be eased back in such a big week — with home games against Indiana and Michigan State — is definitely not a good sign.

Beilein said LeVert had a 30-minute workout, including basketball activities, before Saturday's game.

"Now, we've gotta get him in shape," Beilein said. "He's been in the water, he's been on treadmills, he's done everything, but he's not in shape, because we were so careful of shutting that down earlier."

Beilein acknowledges the obvious, that Michigan is much better with LeVert on the floor.

But he refuses to use that as an excuse.

So, kindly, his peer did.

"They're going through what we went through with Denzel (Valentine), and you take a player out of the lineup like they have and it's tough," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "And so, he won't make an excuse, but I'll make one for him."

Beilein pointed out,  it's not just Levert Michigan is missing, but Spike Albrecht, too.

Spartans' season-best

Michigan State made double-digit 3-pointers for the third straight game, hitting 14 of 22 in the victory over Michigan. It was good for 63.6 percent, the best performance of the season for the Spartans, who matched a program record with 17 3-pointers in last weekend's victory over Rutgers.

It's an offensive attack that has come full-circle for Michigan State.

"When we started out, remember, we were a shooting team," Izzo said. "Then we lost (Valentine) and had some injuries, we went to pounding the ball inside and maybe people looked at that when we were somewhat successful in that.

"Now we have balance, and the break, we got some threes off the break, that's what makes Denzel so important because he's got those great cross-court passes because he's big enough to see over people. … But I don't think we made any more effort to shoot threes, 22 for me would be a great number, especially if we're making them."

Slam dunks

Michigan State sophomore guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. was dressed but missed his sixth straight game with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.

... Asked why Michigan went to a zone defense, Beilein said man-to-man wasn't working — but he still regretted not switching back sooner. Forbes took advantage of the zone with two of his seven first-half 3-pointers.

... The Spartans outrebounded the Wolverines, 35-20, marking the 22nd opponent MSU has beaten on the glass. MSU came into the game with a plus-12.7 rebounding margin, which ranked first in the nation.

... Michigan State has won 24 of the last 33 games overall in the series while Izzo is 24-14 in his career against the Wolverines, and has won nine of the last 16 games at Crisler. MSU now has beaten UM four straight in basketball and three straight in football.

... After blocking one shot, Matt Costello has 133 career blocks and is now one shy of tying Drew Naymick (134) for third all-time in MSU history.

... Forbes' eight 3s were one of the Crisler Center record, set by Colorado State's Aki Palmer on Jan. 2, 2000.