Thursday, Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein enforced strict rules for his players. It was the first time in a month that the Wolverines (9-5 Big Ten, 19-8 overall) had more than three days off between games in a month, and Beilein wanted to ensure that his players were getting the necessary rest to take on No. 6 Maryland (10-4, 22-5) at College Park on Sunday.
“I had to mandate Duncan Robinson was not gonna make the trip to Maryland if I heard he was in the gym yesterday,” Beilein said Friday when he addressed the media. “ ‘You stay home. You wanna go to the gym? All right, go to the gym, but you’re not going with us Saturday because you need to take some time off your legs.’ ”
The redshirt sophomore guard was a force against the Terrapins on Jan. 12, when Michigan defeated then-No. 3 Maryland at Crisler Center, 70-67. Robinson shot 6-for-10 from the field for 17 points, including going 4-for-5 from beyond the arc in the first half.
Since then, Robinson’s 3-point efficiency has dwindled. Tuesday, Robinson hit only one of his 3-point attempts at Ohio State. Against Purdue on Feb. 13, Robinson didn’t make any. Beilein isn’t worried about Robinson’s production, however, thinking that it’s just a matter of time before he picks himself up.
“When I watched (Robinson’s) shots, he had better shots against Ohio State than he had against Maryland last time,” Beilein said. “So he’ll heat up, and we’ll have a lot of fun playing when he knocks down two or three in a row.”
The Terrapins will try to shut down Robinson after seeing his potential impact firsthand, but Maryland will have other reasons to be inspired for the matchup on Sunday.
For the first time in two seasons, Maryland is riding a two-game losing streak after losses to Wisconsin and Minnesota. The Badgers’ victory was the Terrapins’ first loss at home since December 2014, and the Golden Gophers were winless in the Big Ten before their victory over Maryland.
The parity of the conference makes it possible for any team to win on any given night, and though Michigan is heading into a heated battle with the Terrapins — who will undoubtedly do their best to protect their turf — anything can happen.
“That’s the beauty of the game,” Beilein said. “I think that’s why we love it all so much. This race is far from over with so many different teams. Whether it was with Penn State beating Iowa, or our great win over Purdue, or the way we played against Ohio State, expect the unexpected.”
Despite the recent losses, Maryland still has five players averaging in double digits, which will require the Wolverines to make a balanced defensive effort.
“(Melo Trimble) has had games where he probably hasn’t played as well as he’d like to,” Beilein said. “He had a tough game here — he got in foul trouble early. I think that would be key, we just have to do a great defensive job on him.
“(Rasheed) Sulaimon and (Robert) Carter and Diamond Stone, now those guys are really playing well in addition to Melo. So there’s a lot of people you’ve gotta stop — (Jake) Layman was very good here. He’s a tough guy to stop, but it’s not just a matter of stopping (Trimble), they have some other weapons.”
NOTE: Senior guard Caris LeVert, who was sidelined after suffering a lower-leg injury against Illinois on Dec. 30, returned to play for the first time against Purdue on Feb. 13. LeVert played 11 minutes in the first half, but didn’t return after the break or play in the following game against Ohio State.
“I believe, and please print my words carefully here, he had a temporary — we hope — he had a temporary setback in that Purdue game,” Beilein said. “We’re very optimistic that he will return, but that will be a time pretty soon where we might just have to shut it down as well. But we don’t know.”
Of his last 32 possible Big Ten games, he’s missed 24. Despite his misfortune, he’s been in good spirits.
“He is an extremely spiritual and faithful young man, that it’s absolutely amazing how he handles it,” Beilein said. “Absolutely amazing.”