PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Jordan Robinson was feeling it. The Duquesne big man had scored four straight points, each basket giving the lead back to the Dukes in Saturday’s dramatic triple-overtime win against La Salle.
So when he found himself all alone at the top of the key two possessions later, he decided to fire up the first three-pointer he’s attempted all year. He missed. Badly. It was about the only thing that didn’t go right for the graduate senior against the Explorers.
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Robinson finished with his first career double-double, totaling 13 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-high three blocks, two assists and a steal.
“I would guess that’s his best performance ever here,” head coach Keith Dambrot said of his big man. “He played with confidence. He shot the ball in, which he is capable of, and I just felt like he played with a carefree attitude, which I think he has to.”
Due to injuries to teammates Chas Brown and Marko Krivacevic to start the season, Robinson was thrown into a starting role out of necessity, a position he was not accustomed to during his first three seasons on the Bluff. Only twice had he ever logged more than 20 minutes of play, a feat he matched in the team’s first two games this season.
Jordan Robinson with an offensive rebound… AND A BUCKET!!!! Duquesne leads La Salle 53-52 with 8:21 remaining. pic.twitter.com/pBGlKdGAsF
— A10Talk (@A10Talk) January 13, 2018
He had stretches earlier this year where he looked great and others were he was inconsistent or struggled to stay out foul trouble. For example, he scored eight points in a win over VMI but fouled out in just 15 minutes of action in the loss to Robert Morris.
Once Brown returned, Robinson slotted back into a role he’s comfortable with, and he’s thrived. He’s scored seven or more points six times since then, including reach double-figures in two of the team’s last three games. His approach hasn’t changed much; he’s just playing with more confidence.
“I just stick to my usual game plan—play hard, play well with the team, try to get guys involved, and when I’m out, just try to cheer the team on,” Robinson said.
The combination of Robinson and Chas Brown were extremely efficient against La Salle, scoring 25 points on 10 of 16 shooting from the field. Their ability to demand extra attention on defense opens up the Duquesne offense even more.
“When shots are going down for us, we’re a tough team to beat, because then they start double-teaming us, so we kick it out so the guards can get their threes off,” Robinson said. “By doing our part, we help them do theirs.”
And it’s the style Dambrot prefers to play—inside out. Because of the roster makeup, the first-year head coach has played more through his guards, but Saturday’s performance might be indication the Dukes could be more balanced going forward.
Things will come full circle for Robinson Wednesday night when Duquesne travels to Saint Louis for another A-10 matchup. Much like a year ago, he’s playing his best basketball in a Dukes’ uniform.
Last year, the 6-foot-8 forward had the best game of his career against the Billikens, logging a career-high 26 minutes and scoring 14 points on just six shots. It led fans and those around the program to believe Robinson was taking a big step forward in his development. The next day in practice, though, he injured his knee and ended up missing the final seven games of the season. Any hopes of a strong closing stretch to the year vanquished.
Robinson said he hopes to, “pick up where I left off, but even better,” when the two teams square off at Chaifetz Arena at 8 p.m. (ET). He’s improved immensely since then, working to become a more complete player.
“I’ve improved in probably every aspect,” Robinson said. “I’ve improved my shot, the jump hook, the left-hand jump hook, even my passing and dribbling because if I get double-teamed, I’ve got to crab dribble out, kick, and overall just getting smarter, learning stuff from the older guys.”
Dambrot in particular has pushed the Dukes’ in a manner that didn’t exist with the previous coaching staff. Robinson said his new coach has given him even more motivation.
“I would say he brought out more fight,” Robinson said of his growth under Dambrot. “He made me want to compete even harder. Every day, even in practice, he made want to be an all-around better player even more than I did before.”
Robinson is better for it, and so are the Dukes.