NEW YORK CITY, NY. — Before the Michigan men’s basketball team tipped off its Big Ten Tournament game against Iowa, it donned white, long-sleeve warm-up shirts with a simple message emblazoned on the front: Do More. Say Less.
With animated leaders like junior forward Moritz Wagner carrying the team, that sentiment reins more as a suggestion than a matter of fact for the Wolverines. But quieter leaders like senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman swear by it.
When Wagner fouled out with 4:37 remaining and just a six-point advantage, Michigan had to adapt to saying less, whether sophomore center Jon Teske was a serviceable replacement or not. The Wolverines couldn’t hold on, though, and the Hawkeyes willed their way to force overtime. They had to play five more minutes without one of their leaders.
With 2:34 left in the extra period, trailing by one, Abdur-Rahkman fouled out for the first time since Mar. 11, 2016. Michigan’s two main focal points were relegated to the bench for the remainder of the game.
“I mean, it is frustrating when it’s the postseason and you’re getting in foul trouble,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “This could be my last game. … But you did it to yourself so you just gotta be there for your team.”
With Abdur-Rahkman’s absence, there was only one captain left: Duncan Robinson.
“It’s win or go home. Muhammad and I both know that, we’ve been here before,” Robinson said. “There’s no more looking around for somebody else to step up. You’ve gotta look at yourself.”
The fifth-year senior can hardly be described as vocal — the epitome of the message on the Wolverines’ warm-ups. And when the Wolverines needed him most, he did more. He even said a little bit, too.
Facing the one-point deficit, Robinson curled to the top of 3-point line off a Teske screen, where redshirt sophomore Charles Matthews swung the ball to him. Robinson had all the space he needed to spot up, fire and find the bottom of the net. He held up three fingers with his right arm before rapidly flagging it down to his hip, jubilantly yelling at his own bench. His shot and his celebration — albeit a jumbled one — was the jolt that the team needed to finish off the game.
“Just mumbling, a bunch of nothing to nobody basically,” Robinson said. “Just kinda hyping myself up.”
The trey ultimately gave Michigan the lead it would never relinquish en route to a 77-71 win.
“Duncan Robinson just came up huge for us,” said Michigan coach John Beilein. “We got the win, but I don’t know how.”
The Wolverines had struggled all afternoon with 3-point shooting, going 3-for-19 for the game — all three of them were buried by Robinson, who finished the game with 11 points. His first connection didn’t come until the 9:32 mark in the second half. His second happened 1:48 later to extend Michigan’s second-half lead to eight.
While his first two threes weren’t the ultimate deciding factors of the contest, they surely became necessities when the Hawkeyes tied the game. The two shots also added upon his already-impressive achievement — the Wolverines are now 20-0 when Robinson scores six or more points.
“When you look around and Muhammad’s on the bench fouled out and Moe’s on the bench fouled out … being a senior and having been through it, I should hold myself accountable, too, to step into that moment and make a play,” Robinson said.
In an afternoon comprised of tight foul calls and shaky free throw shooting, Michigan was tested with its ability to make up for losing its two most sure-handed players. Robinson didn’t cower from that challenge.
He just did more.