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Robinson Leads Husky Men To First Big East Victory Of Season
That's been the book on Stanley Robinson for a long time, well before and all throughout his twisting, sometimes head-scratching, career at UConn.
And it wasn't always the compliment it might seem to be, speaking as much to his limitations as his potential. But with one dominant performance after another as his senior season rolls on, Robinson is starting to be acknowledged for something more complex and rewarding.
"Definitely one of the better players in the league and in the country," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Robinson had 22 points and a career-high 16 rebounds Saturday as No. 10 UConn defeated the unranked Irish 82-70 before an announced sellout of 16,294 at the XL Center. In helping the Huskies (10-3, 1-1 Big East) bounce back from a disheartening loss at Cincinnati, Robinson sliced through the lane, pulled up for jump shots, soared well above the rim and emerged from thick traffic with the ball time and again.
Robinson even capitalized on his own miscues. With the game still up for grabs early in the second half, he missed a free throw, grabbed the rebound and missed a short jumper — only to dunk his own offensive rebound in one motion. It was a play so few are capable of, one Robinson made look easy.
"I guess it's just a blessing," Robinson said. "A blessing from God."
Coach Jim Calhoun has been able to comment on countless spectacular plays by Robinson over the years. He hasn't always been able to follow with praise for Robinson's overall game.
"I have no idea how he got there," Calhoun said of the dunk. "But he did. He's a pretty special basketball player, and that's the thing that's changed. He can do a lot of things."
UConn, which hasn't been 0-2 in the Big East since the Dream Season of 1989-90, was pretty crisp, proving to have more options down the stretch. In a game with 17 lead changes, the Huskies trailed by one with 10:28 remaining after a jump shot by Luke Harangody, who had 31 points. The Huskies quickly took the lead back for good on a basket by Robinson, the start of a 13-3 run.
Jerome Dyson (20 points) and Kemba Walker (11) each had 10 assists, setting the pace for a well-balanced offense. Gavin Edwards had 13 points and little-used Charles Okwandu had a career-high 10 points in 14 minutes. Okwandu entered when Ater Majok (scoreless without a shot attempt for the second consecutive game) picked up his second foul four minutes in. Majok never left the bench thereafter.
As Calhoun figured would be the case, Harangody would not be stopped. He made 14 of 27 shots and had nine rebounds in 39 minutes.
"He's a scoring machine," Calhoun said. "But the biggest thing I like about his line? Two free throws."
Ben Hansbrough, Tyler's little brother, had 14 points and Tyrone Nash 11 for Notre Dame (12-3, 1-1). Farmington's Tim Abromaitis, who came in averaging 16.2, scored eight on 3-for-9 shooting.
"We played well for about 30 minutes and that's not going to be quite enough against them," Brey said.
With a few NBA scouts on hand, including Danny Ainge of the Celtics, the 6-foot-9 Robinson put on a show of athleticism and smarts. He played 36 minutes, made 3 of 6 three-pointers, committed just one foul, and had two blocks, two steals and two turnovers. He continues to play both forward positions with equal success, moving to power forward when UConn goes with a smaller lineup.
"We really don't want to do that, but he can pop outside and make that three," Calhoun said. "The important thing is that if you go small, we can go small. And he mismatches. If he plays against a 6-7 guy, he's going to mismatch you."
Robinson is averaging 17.8 points and eight rebounds, and has scored in double figures in every game this season. He is 15-for-27 on three-pointers after going 2-for-23 all of last season. He's scored at least 22 in four of the last five games.
"Since my freshman year, my only problem has been I'm not consistent," Robinson said. "I'm starting to be consistent. And I'm just happy about it."