Late in the first half of the Michigan basketball team’s 66-59 win over North Carolina State on Tuesday, the Wolverines held their breath. Junior point guard Derrick Walton Jr. — who missed the latter half of the 2014-15 season with a foot injury — came up lame on the same leg. Suddenly, one of the key cogs in Michigan’s lineup was out with injury, again.
Walton sat out the second half, but the Wolverines held on to beat the Wolfpack. Later, Michigan coach John Beilein said Walton suffered a “slight ankle sprain,” and Michigan fans sighed in relief when the coach noted it isn’t expected to be a long-term injury.
The news got better Friday when Beilein didn’t rule out the possibility of Walton returning within the next week.
“Derrick is making really good progress,” Beilein said. “We’ll wait and see tomorrow and we’ll see what he can do, if anything, today.”
Through six and a half games, Walton had averaged 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game, in addition to being a valuable defender at the guard position.
“Caris handles the ball a great deal for us (already),” Beilein said. “(Sophomore guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman) gives us a very good defender. In the event that Derrick cannot go, I would expect to see Spike in there as well.”
Duncan Robinson gaining swagger
Duncan Robinson is shooting 63% on threes and his 84.6 effective field goal percentage would rank first in the nation if he had played a few more minutes to qualify for Ken Pomeroy’s leaderboard. The Williams College transfer didn’t proclaim himself the best shooter in the country like Michigan’s last great shooter Nik Stauskas did early in his freshman year, but he admitted that he’s confident in his abilities.
“I try not to get too caught up in the numbers,” Robinson said. “I try to just take good shots, but to be honest I feel like I should make everyone. It’s just kind of who I am.”
Robinson has only made less than 50% of his three-point attempts in two games this season: an 0-1 night in the opener against Northern Michigan and a 1-6 performance against UConn. What happened against UConn? He didn’t get his full warmup routine in.
“It’s about 35 or 40 minutes until I get to 115 makes.” twitter
“The tournament setting was weird because you only get 30 minutes before the game,” Robinson explained. “So I went the whole day without touching the basketball really. I have a routine I like to do before the games and I didn’t get to do it for that game.
“It’s about 35 or 40 minutes until I get to 115 makes.”
John Beilein has seen growth from his sophomore wing as well.
“Both (Duncan Robinson and Moritz Wagner) had some real qualities, but they weren’t necessarily swagging out there,” Beilein said. “They’d hit some shots, but if they miss a couple they’d hang their head a little bit like it was the end of the world. We’ve tried to encourage them that ‘you can do this, you wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe you, just go out and do your thing.'”
Judging by the degree of difficulty on Robinson’s last two makes at NC State, that swagger is coming along just fine.
Michigan cautious of upsets after Big Ten-ACC Challenge
Michigan will finally play at home after four games, but the Wolverines will be cautious after creating some positive momentum.
“Playing those three games and then coming back and going right back on the road and winning a road game at NC State was just great growth for this team,” Beilein said. “Now we have a Saturday game against Houston Baptist and we have to be just as focused for that game as we were for the NC State game.”
Michigan, as well as any team in the country, should realize that ‘guarantee games’ in December are no no guarantee. The money is guaranteed, but last year the Wolverines lost to NJIT and Eastern Michigan in back-to-back games after the Big Ten-ACC Challenge.
“I did some research last year after we lost to New Jersey Tech and five teams that won the Big Ten ACC Challenge lost a gaurantee game that Saturday,” Beilein said. “You win and you’re up and all of the sudden you don’t take the next opponent the way you should. We have to be very careful of that.”