No one ever said that change is easy. Just ask Michigan”s stars, LaVell Blanchard and Bernard Robinson.
Blanchard and Robinson, who combined last year to average 33 points per game, were once again virtual non-factors in one of Michigan”s key games.
The dynamic duo”s stat line at the half against Duke more closely resembled stage-fright instead of a breakthrough performance zero points and four fouls. Robinson finished the game 2-11 from the field and scored four points, while Blanchard had a quiet 16 points with most coming in garbage-time.
Blanchard still leads the Wolverines in scoring at nearly 15 points per game, but Robinson has fallen to fourth on the team with a 10.3 average.
“I don”t know,” said a puzzled Robinson about his performance. “I just don”t know. If I knew I would fix it.”
But the answer may not be that hard to figure out and it”s not injuries.
When new coach Tommy Amaker came on the scene, he brought a new offensive system and new roles for Michigan”s two top players.
Blanchard, who was a preseason Naismith Award candidate, admits he”s had to change his game to adjust to Amaker”s new offensive sets and Michigan”s lack of frontcourt depth.
“Basically, it”s just a different system,” said Blanchard, who led the Wolverines with 49 3-pointers last season and a 40-percent clip from behind the arc. “Last year I came off screens more and was more of a jump-shooter. This year, I”m more of a post player and I have to get used to that role.”
Meanwhile, Robinson has harnessed his role from last season as a slasher who drove past other small forwards. Last year, with his aggressive playmaking style, Robinson found a comfortable home at the free-throw line, where he led Michigan with an 80-percent clip from the charity stripe. Robinson also led the team with 93 turnovers 29 more than any other player.
Coming off a summer during which he was bed-stricken due to mononucleosis and was forced to miss nearly 75 percent of Michigan”s preseason drills, Robinson has found himself pressing too much.
“Looking at videotape, I may have tried to come back and prove too many things to the coaching staff,” Robinson said. “I”m getting calmer and trying to play my game but the big thing is learning the system.”
While Robinson is being more cautious with the ball (just 10 turnovers in the past six games), instead of penetrating and getting to the foul line, he has been stuck playing around the perimeter, where he is a dismal 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
But the emotional Robinson has also channeled his frustration and energy in the wrong form. Robinson smashed a fire extinguisher in Bowling Green”s University Arena two weeks ago, which lacerated his right (non-shooting) hand and resulted being benching for the first half of the Boston College game.
“Once coach takes that from you, you tend to think about that,” Robinson said. “And if you sit on the bench, you pay more attention and do things harder and quicker.
“It”s an easy, passing system but you have to know when to shoot the ball and if you don”t know when to shoot the ball it will make you look bad.”