Michigan coach John Beilein started off his Friday press conference with bad news, just not the kind Michigan fans had anticipated. After mentioning that junior guard Derrick Walton Jr. still hadn’t practiced more than a week after suffering an ankle sprain against North Carolina State, Beilein made note of more injuries that had been sustained just that day in practice.
Then came the news the Wolverine faithful already knew: Senior guard and captain Spike Albrecht would be retiring from the Michigan basketball team due to his slow recovery from offseason hip surgeries.
Despite injuries and rotation changes that included redshirt sophomore guard Duncan Robinson replacing sophomore Aubrey Dawkins in the starting lineup, the Wolverines (7-3) exceeded expectations against winless Delaware State on Saturday, clobbering the Hornets, 80-33.
There weren’t any transitional issues for Robinson, who got on the board first with a 3-pointer after being left open on the wing. He went on to score 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting, validating his new status as a starter.
“We feel right now, that our flow, defensively and offensively, is better as a starter for Duncan,” Beilein said. “Get him in there and let him go and get more scorers out there. … I think he makes other guys better.”
Robinson dished out four of the Wolverines’ season-high 23 assists. After the Wolverines tallied just 12 in their loss to Southern Methodist, Beilein made sharing the ball a point of emphasis in practice.
Starting Robinson takes more pressure off of senior guard Caris LeVert, who leads both the scoring and assists categories.
“He opens up the floor because he’s such a great shooter, so that really gets us going offensively,” said sophomore forward Kam Chatman. “Him starting really opens up the floor for Caris or (sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman) or Derrick to get into the paint.”
Chatman made some noise himself. As soon as he came in off the bench, he dished the ball to Robinson, who took it home for a dunk. Within the next two minutes, he scored five points, added another assist, grabbed two boards and blocked a shot.
“Just coming in, I knew the play when I was going through it the past day, it was going to be open, so I told Duncan, ‘Just be ready,’ ” Chatman said. “And so just throwing that pass, it kind of got me going. It was pretty good.”
Junior guard Andrew Dakich also had a more impactful day than usual, burning his redshirt by checking into the game less than 10 minutes into the first half. With Walton still recovering, Dakich supplements sophomore guard Abdur-Rahkman and LeVert.
“I mean, it was a no-brainer after he went down,” Dakich said. “Coach Beilein pulled me in and told me what was going on with Spike. I said, same thing as last year, (I’ll help) any way I can and contribute the best I can.”
Added Beilein: “I’m just telling you, (Dakich) didn’t look the part. He sees the floor, and he’s got a lot of Spike in him. I thought today he tried to do a little bit too much on a couple plays. I got a lot of confidence in him right now because I watch him every day.”
The crowd favorite got Crisler Center to the loudest it was all game when he made his first field goal attempt by faking a 3 and completing a running layup. The walk-on had a career day in all categories with four points, three assists and two rebounds.
“I didn’t want to shoot it today,” Dakich said. “I just wanted to get other people open.
“It was nice. It was fun to see that first one go down.”