Glenn Robinson III has frustrated Michigan fans many times during his career.
He’s never dominated the way his talents and DNA would seem to indicate, but there’s one thing that even his biggest critics have to concede. Robinson is certainly not afraid of the big moment, as he proved with the game-winning buzzer-beater at Purdue that virtually clinched Michigan’s Big Ten title.
Saturday, he stepped up again. With the Wolverines staggering against a Texas rally, it was Robinson who made three big plays to get the game back under control.
With 8:21 to play, the Longhorns had cut an 18-point lead to 58-50 and had the ball. Isaiah Taylor drove past Nik Stauskas for a short baseline jumper, but Robinson slammed it into the stands. Even though Texas still scored on the possession, Robinson’s block slowed down Texas’s dribble penetration for the rest of the game.
Still, the Longhorns were within six until Robinson came off a cut to hit a jumper and then, after a Texas turnover, he made it an 11-point game by burying a 3-pointer from the wing.
"This guy, all year long, he has made some big, big shots for us," Michigan coach John Beilein said on the CBS postgame show. "But the ones he hit tonight? The ones when they were making that run? None were bigger than that."
Michigan spent the first 25 minutes of the game looking like they were going to run Texas off the floor. The Longhorns have the same offensive issues as the Pistons, where strong offensive rebounding compensates for poor outside shooting, and the Wolverines kept them off the glass in the first half.
With Texas mainly limited to one shot, and their combination of two huge post players and three small guards proving ineffective against Michigan’s transition offense, the Longhorns were lucky to only be down 13 at the intermission.
"We played a great first half, and thank God we did," Beilein said. "We knew they were a very good team, and they came storming back at us."
Texas coach Rick Barnes switched to a 2-3 zone, but the Wolverines torched it with a combination of open jumpers and quick passes that got Jordan Morgan the ball under the rim.
"In the first half, we were able to run on them and get some easy baskets in transition," Robinson said. "The way they were guarding us in the second half, we had to move the ball more, but that got us a lot of great shots against the zone."
The problems started when, as often happens to a team that lives by the 3-point shot, Michigan hit a cold spell in the second half. At the same time, the Longhorns began to dominate the offensive glass, including one possession where they scored on their fourth shot.
That got Texas back into the game, but the clock became Michigan’s ally. With the Longhorns sitting back in their zone, the Wolverines could hold the ball for 20-25 seconds before even thinking about taking a shot. That’s why, despite seeming to dominate the second half, Robinson’s quick burst was enough to put Texas back into a deep hole.
At that point, it was time for Morgan to throw himself again and again at his much-bigger opponents. He finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Texas center Cam Ridley finished with only six points and nine rebounds.
"We were very concerned about how we were going to stop Ridley," Beilein said in his postgame press conference. "We told Jon (Horford) and Max (Bielfeldt) that we were going to need them to help against him, but Jordan just kept telling us that he had it under control. He handled it all by himself, and he did it beautifully."
With that effort, and some help from Robinson, Stauskas and his other teammates, Morgan earned the Wolverines another trip to the Sweet 16 and a second visit this month to Indianapolis.