WORTHINGTON -- Traelius Robinson prides himself on defense.
So the first-year player for the Minnesota West men’s basketball team fits right in with this year’s team.
Robinson and the Jays used a stifling defensive effort in Friday night’s Sanford Worthington Basketball Classic for an 80-68 victory over Northwestern JV.
“Ever since I’ve been in high school, I pride myself on D,” said Robinson, who finished with four steals. “Our team is very fast. I would say D creates O. We’re just finding ways to win.”
MW is off to a 2-0 start this season and has held both opponents to less than 70 points.
On Friday, Northwestern was trying to use off-ball movement to create lanes and kickouts for open 3s. But West held tough, and limited the Red Raiders 24 percent shooting from 3-point range, including 19 percent in the second half.
“Two games holding teams to under 70, I think we’ve gotten better every game, too. It’s nice to see the changes. The little things go a long ways. The little things that help us and little things that hurt us,” MW head coach Taylor Lupton said. “One thing we really stressed is off-ball defense. You have to know where your man is and you have to know where the ball is. It’s tough to get that down early. Defense is the hardest thing to teach and it’s nice to see us getting better.”
The Bluejays had 16 steals -- led by five from Jaimon Cheek -- and forced 28 turnovers in the game.
“It all starts with D,” Robinson said. “If you don’t play D, you don’t win. Defense wins championships. That’s what we’re chasing right now.”
Offensively, MW had a slow start and led by five at the break. Playing against the NW zone, the Bluejays made more shots in the second half, including consecutive 3s by Xavier Dixon early. Robinson scored three quick points and Jacquez Stoudemire had a put-back dunk off a missed shot as West was off and running. A triple by Cheek and another by Chris Morales gave MW a 20-point advantage.
“It just takes a minute for our guys to figure (the zone defense) out,” Lupton said. “We honestly should have scored a lot more off of that. But when you get it down in the post and you have three guys on you, it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s tough to score. They took good shots, not every one is going in.”
Robinson finished with a game-high 19 points, including 11 in the first half.
“He had a really hot start,” Lupton said. “They were kind of leaving a guy open. He was hitting 3s right away and we kept going to him.”
Robinson is a few years removed from high school, but is making the most of his time on the court.
“It’s my first time back in two and a half or three years since I’ve been in high school,” Robinson said. “My team put faith in me and it felt good to shoot.”
Morales added 13 points, Dixon and Cheek each had 12 and Stoudemire finished with eight points and eight rebounds for the Bluejays.