It was a symbolic exchange between a new coach and one of his star players.
In Saturday”s victory over Purdue, Michigan coach Tommy Amaker anxiously stood and watched Bernard Robinson take the ball at the top of the key.
Despite the sophomore”s tendency to turn the ball over and his sometimes inconsistent shot selection Amaker showed confidence in his young guard.
In fact, he confidently unleashed the reigns.
“Take him,” Amaker yelled from the bench.
Just like he had the entire game, Robinson delivered. In arguably his best overall performance of the season, Robinson scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He also had several key post-entry passes to Chris Young, racking up six assists.
Robinson calmly came through in the clutch, shooting 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the waning minutes. He also added one of his trademark runners in the lane after the Boilermakers trimmed the deficit to three points, icing the victory for Michigan (with about a half minute to play) for the second straight game.
Three days prior, Robinson led the Wolverines with 16 points and five boards, gutting out an important road win at Penn State Michigan”s first victory away from Crisler Arena in 345 days.
Robinson was also a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe in Happy Valley, where he had a key tip-in to preserve the Wolverines” win.
“Coach told me to be more aggressive and I just wanted to go out there and play with confidence make or miss,” Robinson said. “And if you do that, good things will happen.”
On Saturday, good things happened at both ends of the floor for Robinson, as he embraced his new role this season as one of Amaker”s defensive stoppers.
He held Purdue”s top offensive weapon, junior guard Willie Deane to just five points in the first stanza.
“I thought his overall performance was outstanding,” Amaker said. “He had to guard maybe the best perimeter player on their team, and certainly he delivered for us in a lot of key situations offensively. It”s nice to see him being aggressive and attacking.”
The only thing a struggling Robinson could effectively attack in the first nine games was the fire extinguisher case in Bowling Green”s Anderson Arena. On Nov. 28, after Michigan”s second-straight loss to a Mid-American Conference team, Robinson missed the shot that could have tied the game. Afterwards, he took out his frustrations by punching the glass case lacerating his right (non-shooting) hand.
Michigan”s co-MVP from last season admitted he was trying to do too much in an effort to prove to the coaches that he was fully recovered from his summer battle with mononucleosis. Both Robinson and fellow MVP LaVell Blanchard had problems gelling in Amaker”s new offensive system. Robinson shot below 40-percent from the field in five of his first nine games, missing his first 10 3-point attempts.
But he”s using his aggressive style to his advantage now. He”s penetrating and getting to the line more often where he leads the team with a nearly 90-percent clip.
On Saturday, Blanchard”s 18 points and both forwards” inspired play, gave Michigan the rock it relied upon so much last season.
It also took some pressure off Young, who has been battling numerous double teams since his 25-point performance against No. 1 Duke.
“We knew (Blanchard and Robinson) were going to come around,” junior Gavin Groninger said. “We just waited and kept playing off of them and they”re coming through for us now.”