Wolverines senior guard talks about adjusting to new role of playing as a substitute after starting in 18 games this season. Angelique S. Chengelis
Ann Arbor — By no means is Michigan fifth-year senior co-captain Duncan Robinson thrilled with the recent lineup change that has him coming off the bench after freshman Isaiah Livers assumed his role in the starting five.
Livers has started the last two games and is expected to start when No. 23 Michigan (16-4, 5-2 Big Ten) plays at Nebraska (13-7, 4-3) Thursday night. This is the Wolverines’ second game in a stretch of three games within seven days. They defeated Maryland on Monday, 68-67, play at Nebraska, and then Rutgers on Sunday.
“If we get this win, it’s a hell of a win,” Michigan coach John Beilein said Wednesday of playing at the always packed Pinnacle Bank Arena where the Cornhuskers are 10-1 this season. “There won’t be too many teams that will go into Nebraska and win this year. If we could ever do that, that would be special.”
Michigan is 3-2 on the road this season.
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“Three power-conference road wins — that’s pretty good,” Beilein said. “I don’t want to finish with three. If you can win half your road games, you’ve had an incredible year. It’s really hard to win on the road.”
It’s also hard to losing a starting role, as Robinson has done. He started the first 18 games this season and leads the team in 3-pointers with 39. He is averaging 9.4 points per game.
"It's been a change," Robinson said Wednesday of losing his starting job. "I'm just willing to embrace anything, any role this team needs me to take on. I'm all in for it and I'm excited for the opportunity."
Robinson came off the bench last season when D.J. Wilson was starting.
Beilein wants him to take this opportunity to become the best sixth man in the conference. Robinson played 20 minutes against Maryland on Monday and made a couple critical 3-pointers.
Michigan coach John Beilein talks about Nebraska, the Wolverines' opponent Thursday. Angelique S. Chengelis
“This is not his first rodeo with both these things,” Beilein said of Robinson starting and coming off the bench. “I think he’s been really good about it. I know for a fact he’s not overjoyed. I wouldn’t be, either, but he wants to do what’s best for the team.
“He came in and hit two big threes for us (against the Terps). He was 2-for-4 in that role. I think it’s good for him and good for the team. I think it’s really going to be good for him because he comes in and watches the game, he sees what’s going on and he’ll be a better shooter because of it.
"He’s a heck of a guy off the bench. Embrace this deal and be the sixth man of the year in the league. That’s a great honor to have.”
Still, while Robinson can rationalize the change and understand it, that doesn’t make it easier.
"It's different, but I've done it before," Robinson said. "I've played both roles, starting and also coming off the bench. I played both roles so I think that helps it. I'm not unfamiliar with it. So, I’m just trying to take in stride. Like I said, I’m willing to embrace everything, whatever helps this team win."
Having the experience of coming into games off the bench, Robinson understands the difference in challenges from that role to starting. He would prefer the latter, but knows the rhythm of his new position.
“There’s a difference. Just whether it be the mindset or how you approach it,” he said. “I think you’ve got to approach it a little bit differently. Both present challenges I’m willing to embrace.”
Michigan vs. Nebraska
Tip-off: 9 p.m. Thursday, Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Neb.
TV/radio: BTN, 950 AM.
Records: Michigan:16-4, 5-2 Big Ten; Nebraska is 13-7, 4-3.
Notable: Michigan leads the leads, 14-2, including winning the last 10.