You remember Duncan Robinson, right?
The lanky marksman who set the world ablaze from beyond the arc when he transferred from Division III’s Williams College. The guy who captivated the fanbase and agitated opposing coaches. The fifth-year senior captain primed for the season of his life.
Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rakhman sure does.
“I was here when he was shooting like 70 percent as a sophomore,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “I’m glad he’s getting back to his old self and playing with the same confidence he had before.”
Robinson followed an offensive outburst on Sunday against Wisconsin — 16 points on 4-of-8 from 3-point range — with another electric shooting display Wednesday, helping lift Michigan past Iowa, 74-59.
These performances were nothing that Robinson and coach John Beilein didn’t see everyday in practice.
But for the Wolverines’ opponents, this was a warning shot: Duncan Robinson is back, and subsequently, Michigan’s offense is on the ascent.
After draining three of his five 3-point attempts in the first half Wednesday, Robinson came back out in the second half on the prowl. With Michigan maintaining a steady lead, he put the game on ice, stamping the stretch of the game with 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions.
With the Wolverines holding a 49-40 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the game, Robinson spotted up comfortably behind the Hawkeyes’ packed-in zone. Receiving the ball on the wing, he used the space to elevate and drain a 3-pointer. Then, with the flimsy zone offering ample space, Robinson knocked down another on the next possession from the same spot on the floor. By the time the third left his hand, the whole building knew it was in.
Iowa promptly called timeout, but it was too late. Robinson — mobbed at midcourt by his teammates — had put Michigan up 58-42, and the game to bed.
“Again, I watch everyday in practice,” Beilein said. “It’s the rep shooting drills where you have a minute to make so many threes. … He just goes ‘Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.’ Some of our guys will have a good day and a bad day. He never misses the mark.”
Added Robinson: “When you make one or two, you kinda, at least in my head, have the green light for the next one even if it may be questionable. That’s just kind of how basketball is. Coach B instills a lot of confidence in me and so do my teammates. … He was actually on me after the game to shoot more.”
After Wednesday’s game, Robinson raised his 3-point shooting percentage to 38.6, inching closer and closer to his elite career norms.
His re-emergence offers a potent shooting threat on a team that has consistently struggled to maintain offensive consistency. And yet, the secondary and tertiary benefits of having a dead-eye shooter might be equally important.
The possession after Robinson’s long-distance bonanza, junior center Moritz Wagner grabbed an offensive board as Robinson sprinted to the near wing for a potential open three. As the Iowa defender frantically attacked Robinson to close out, Wagner instead fired the pass to Abdur-Rahkman at the top of the key. Using the space afforded to him by Robinson’s 3-point threat, Abdur-Rahkman breezed down the lane for an easy lay-in.
The Duncan Robinson Effect is back, and not a moment too soon.
“We have a couple shooters on our team,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “But no one like Duncan, one of the best in the country. When he’s hot like that, it adds a different dynamic and a different look for teams to try to guard, and helps open up a lot of things for other people.”
Robinson has sporadically shown signs of breaking out of his prolonged slumber. Against Rutgers he hit four 3-pointers to spread the lead in that ugly defensive battle. Against Detroit Mercy and Alabama A&M, he combined for eight threes, though the competition level still left more to be desired.
But coupling his outing Sunday against Wisconsin with his performance Wednesday, this stretch could very well be a breakthrough at the biggest time of the year.
“(It’s) not really (hard to stay aggressive), especially when you’re a senior looking at your last games,” Robinson said. “I kinda look at it like it’s now or never. You see the time ticking out on your career, you’ve got to have a heightened sense of urgency about wanting to leave a mark.”