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Michigan energized by freshmen

No. 2 Wolverines are winning games and weekly awards

Michigan is dominating the Big Ten weekly awards.

And also the competition.

The No. 2 Wolverines are the first 16-0 team in the nation.

Michigan got to that mark Wednesday, knocking off Nebraska 62-47. The win matches the best start in the program’s history, set during the beginning of the 1985-86 season.

“One of the things we all know is you need to get some road wins and hold serve at home if you have any aspirations of being at the top of the league,” Michigan coach John Beilein said during the Big Ten teleconference this week.

The Wolverines have had a player earn either conference player-of-the-week or freshman-of-the-week honors every week.

This week, Michigan swept the awards. Sophomore guard Trey Burke was named the player of the week for the second time this season. Forward Glenn Robinson III was named the freshman of the week.

“Robinson is a guy that’s kind of scary,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said.

“When you see where he is, how mature he is and how willing he is to fulfill his role. If you need him to be the leading scorer, he will do it. But he doesn’t have to do it. He’ll do what he needs to do to help his team win. That’s the most impressive thing.”

Robinson had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds against Iowa on Jan. 6.

Robinson became the third Wolverine in a row to be named freshman of the week, joining Mitch McGary (Dec. 24) and Nik Stauskas (Dec. 31). Stauskas has won the honor three times.

“(Robinson) is just doing so many things for us that are behind the scenes that I don’t think people realize. His instincts, we’re playing off his instincts, we run some very set looks that options out very quickly,” Beilein said.

“He reads options as well as anybody that we’ve had as a freshman.

“All the freshmen, they all came in with a great attitude, and they’ve adjusted very well to college basketball.”

Burke put himself in the race for national player of the year with his play to date. He entered Wednesday second in the Big Ten in scoring, averaging 21 points per game. Tim Hardaway Jr., another threat, is fifth in the league averaging 16.4 points. He was named Big Ten Player of the Week Nov. 12.

Burke leads the Big Ten in assists (8.5) and is tied for third in steals (2.5).

“Every day there are some things he does in practice that are the ones the truly great college players do. And I’m not talking about some incredible one-on-one move, I’m talking about leadership, focus, emphasis on picking up his teammates,” Beilein said.

“Those are the things that have fed his journey right now. He’s probably playing as well as anybody in the league, if not the nation. He really has things in great perspective with what’s most important and that’s the team.

“As a result, his numbers are really incredible because of his focus on his teammates. For someone to do it as a sophomore, that tells a lot about who he is.”

lpope@jg.net

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