Nik Stauskas sizzles after slow start against Penn State, dismisses he's hit 'freshman wall'
Michigan's sharp-shooting freshman was off, and coach John Beilein had a message for him.
"I think Nik misses one shot and he goes into cardiac arrest," Beilein said. "He misses three, and it's like, 'All right, you can't let down on defense, and it's OK Nik, if you don't shoot the ball when you're open, you're coming out.'"
Stauskas didn't stop shooting.
But he did start missing.
Stauskas misfired just once the rest of the game, finishing with 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting to lift No. 4 Michigan (22-4, 9-4) past Penn State 79-71.
He hit two of his final 3-pointers, and made five of his final six shots overall.
"I missed some easy ones in the first half, so I knew they were going to have to start dropping some time," Stauskas said.
"I started saying 'I got to get to the basket, I got to get some easy buckets.' I got to the free-throw line a little bit and that helped my confidence. Second half, I knocked down a couple jumpers."
Michigan has one of the country's better one-two combinations at guard in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr., and that makes it a very good team. But it becomes a great one when Stauskas and fellow freshman Glenn Robinson III are providing contributions.
Stauksas became one of the country's hottest freshmen with his pinpoint shooting in the nonconference season, making 39-of-69 attempts from deep (56.5 percent).
But that percentage has fallen to 41.4 in the conference season. That's still a terrific mark, but it's below his expectations for himself.
He also has had some rough performances in Michigan losses, shooting a combined 32.1 percent from the floor in the four games.
Robinson has had his own struggles lately, too, and debate whether the pair has hit a so-called "freshmen wall" has become a recent talking point.
Stauskas acknowledged to being a little tired 26 games into the season, but dismissed the idea he has hit a wall.
"Me and Glenn have heard a lot about it, just because we had a few-game stretch where we hadn't been playing well," he said. "Maybe it is we're tired, or something like that, but honestly, we've just been missing shots we ordinarily make.
"Both us were just missing open shots, and there's nothing you can do about that sometimes. You shoot the ball the same way, and it doesn't go in. I don't think any of us have hit a wall, but maybe we're a little tired."
Stauskas said he hopes to diversify his game in the offseason so he's not so reliant on either the 3-pointer or driving to the basket. He plans to stick in Ann Arbor over the summer to add a mid-range game.
"I understand at this point it's really difficult to get all the way to the basket every time, and I know they're going to have 7-footers down there, and guys taking charges," he said. "So this summer, I definitely want to make sure I work on getting that 15-footer automatic, or floaters automatic."
Beilein will be OK with that, as long as Stauskas doesn't stop shooting.
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