UM's Zak Irvin, Mark Donnal met the media Saturday following a win over Nebraska in Lincoln. Tony Paul
Lincoln, Neb. — Duncan Robinson scored 21 points.
On seven 3-pointers, right?
For the first time in his Michigan career, Robinson, the Wolverines’ maestro from long range, scored more points inside the arc than outside.
And coach John Beilein was impressed with the growth.
“What he’s realizing now is people are going to play him a certain way and his movement without the ball is going to be really important,” Beilein said of his sophomore transfer. “He’s learning all the video and all the synergy. People are going to sit on different ways.
“And he’s got to do more than just stand and wait for people to get him open.”
Robinson’s biggest moment without the ball came late in the second half, as Nebraska was charging.
Robinson cut from the wing toward the basket, and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman saw him and fired the ball.
Robinson grabbed it and threw down a rare dunk. With 2:10 left, that extended Michigan’s lead to six. Nebraska never really threatened the rest of the way, as the Wolverines won, 81-68, on the road.
Robinson has struggled recently from 3-point range, not worse than 3-of-10 in the last game against Minnesota.
He made his first two Saturday, but then missed six of his last seven from free 3-point range.
So he started going inside, much to Beilein’s delight.
Working inside also got Robinson to the free-throw line six times in the second half, and he made them all.
Free and easy
Michigan put on a free-throw clinic in the victory — making all 13 in the second half.
Beilein said that’s not by coincidence.
Earlier this month, Michigan split into two groups at the end of practice, blared the music at Crisler Center, and each guy shot a pair of free throws. Each six-man team was 3-of-12.
“And I said, I think this is something we’ve got to work on,” Beilein said, with a smile. “So we’ve been working on it religiously.”
It just so happens, in their last practice before the Nebraska game, Michigan players made 20 of 24.
In Saturday’s win, they made 20 of 23.
Robinson was 6-of-6, Derrick Walton Jr. 5-of-6, Mark Donnal 6-of-8 and Abdur-Rahkman 3-of-3.
Despite big deficits in both halves, Nebraska never really went away until the final minute.
It didn’t surprise Beilein, who said the game is changing.
“If you’ve been watching college basketball for the shorter shot clock, the leads aren’t safe,” Beilein said. “It can go so quickly. Eighteen can get to 12 quickly, then you answer with two more 3’s and it’s six.
“We also had a couple turnovers there that were very costly, as well, and we fouled guys in transition. It just happens.
“I know that when I’m watching a game on TV or my phone, I say, ‘Wow, they’re up by 18. It’s over.’ You feel that as a spectator, you probably feel that as a sportswriter. You don’t feel that as a coach.”
Nebraska coach Tim Miles was proud of his team’s resiliency.
“They just absolutely played with a lot of heart, because it wasn’t our best night,” Miles said. “We were a little flat early. We didn’t share the ball. We didn’t get our offensive space where it should be, and then defensively, you can’t give up everything.”
In talking about Michigan’s untimely turnovers, Beilein gave credit to Nebraska’s Benny Hill.
Uhh, excuse me?
“Benny Parker,” Beilein corrected himself, with a laugh. “Benny Hill probably turns some people over, too.”
... Walton, who finished with six assists, was firing missile passes, several to Donnal.
“Yeah,” Donnal said, smiling. “There was some smoke passes that he was able to make and I converted on ones I could.”
... Mo Wagner got eight more minutes, second among the bigs to Donnal. D.J. Wilson didn’t play.
“With Mo, he’s not afraid to make a play,” Beilein said. “His turnovers (two) are a huge concern, but he’s still not afraid to make a play, so I like that.”
... Four of Nebraska’s nine losses have come at home, where Pinnacle Bank is always sold out.
“They hate that,” Miles said.