NCAA

Freshman Robinson blending in for No. 2 Michigan

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Freshman Robinson blending in for No. 2 Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) From the moment Glenn Robinson III joined the Michigan basketball team, the freshman looked mature beyond his years on the court.

``There were some scrimmages early in the year, just intersquad scrimmages, he might not take a shot,'' coach John Beilein said. ``He just waits for the game to come to him and picks his spots.''

Robinson is making the adjustment to college look awfully easy for the second-ranked Wolverines, and Sunday was perhaps his best game so far. The 20-point, 10-rebound effort against Iowa was his first double-double - and after a couple energizing alley-oop dunks, it was impossible to ignore the 6-foot-6 forward.

The son of the former Purdue star with the same name, Robinson has been content to blend in quietly in his first season at Michigan, but that doesn't mean he isn't contributing. Nicknamed ``Light Rob'' because of his ability to score and rebound without much fanfare, Robinson cedes most of the attention to standout point guard Trey Burke and talented scorer Tim Hardaway Jr.

``A lot of people are going to kind of stay locked in on Trey and Tim, and I think that it's my job - and a lot more guys off the bench - to score,'' Robinson said. ``I just take my opportunities and read the defense and try to help the team out as much as I can.''

At this point, Robinson might not even be Michigan's most hyped freshman. Nik Stauskas is shooting 54 percent from 3-point range, while Mitch McGary brings physicality off the bench. But Robinson, a starter since the opening game, may be the most efficient of the three, averaging 12.5 points and shooting 59 percent from the field.

``He's a team guy,'' Beilein said. ``He just really understands his role on the team and plays it extremely well.''

Robinson is also tied with McGary for the team lead in rebounds.

There was nothing subtle about Robinson's performance Sunday, when he showed off leaping ability Iowa couldn't match. He had an alley-oop from Burke in the first half, then another in the second. Robinson also made an early 3-pointer when the Wolverines were down 10-4 and reeling a bit, and he hustled down the court for a last-second layup to give them an 11-point lead at halftime. Michigan went on to win 95-67.

Michigan, which tied for the Big Ten title last season, now looks like a national championship contender. The Wolverines (15-0, 2-0 Big Ten) host Nebraska (9-6, 0-2) on Wednesday night.

A lot of Robinson's success is because of the chemistry he's developed with Burke, who leads the team in scoring and has become one of the nation's top players. In his last 10 games, Burke has 79 assists and only 11 turnovers, and the list of maize-and-blue beneficiaries is a long one.

``We've got that kind of connection. In practice all the time, we practice lobs,'' Robinson said. ``I've played with some great point guards, but not like him.''

Robinson can play on the perimeter, too, going a solid 11 of 29 from 3-point range.

``He's been shooting really well for us lately, and just doing whatever he can to help the team out,'' Hardaway said. ``Whether it's defense, getting offensive and defensive rebounds and running the floor.''

Hardaway, a junior, may be the player Robinson is most similar to. They're the same height and both are comfortable shooting from outside or finishing around the basket.

But right now, even Hardaway is a bit flattered by that comparison.

``Not the same exact player,'' Hardaway said. ``He's way more athletic than I am.''

Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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