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May 5, 2017

Maggie Mulligan looks to secure 20th double-double in final regular season game for UMass women’s basketball

(Katherine Mayo/ Daily Collegian)

One year ago at this time, forward Maggie Mulligan started nearly every game for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team but played a limited role on the court, averaging about five points and five rebounds per game.

Flash forward to today and Mulligan has become a critical player for UMass (9-19, 3-12 Atlantic 10), averaging nearly 14 points and over 11 rebounds per game.

Now Mulligan has the opportunity to earn her 20th double-double of the season on Wednesday in the final game of the regular season against Rhode Island.

“I think it’s huge and it’s a testament to what she’s done and all the hard-work. I know it would be an exciting accomplishment for her, but more importantly I know she wants to win the game more than get her 20th double-double,” UMass coach Tory Verdi said after practice on Monday.

Mulligan confirmed her coach’s sentiment moments later when asked what the accomplishment would mean to her.

“That would make me feel good I guess, I don’t know. It would make me feel even better if we got the win,” Mulligan said.

Mulligan has powered the Minutewomen offense lately, scoring a team-high in points the past two games.

The junior has needed to do more partly because Hailey Leidel, the team’s leading scorer, has been held to single figures in four of the past nine games, likely due to her record-setting pace for minutes catching up with the freshman a bit.

UMass will likely need a repeat of Mulligan’s 18-point, 10-rebound performance if it hopes to end its nine-game losing streak on Wednesday against URI.

“Offensively Maggie has to do a great job against them and combo-move it and try to lift them a little bit,” Verdi said. “They’re a team that likes to block shots, so we’ve got to get them in the air, we’ve got to create separation, and either finish through them or around them.”

Mulligan’s development this season has been off-the-charts, with Mulligan being the first Minutewomen player since Jennifer Butler in 2002-03 to finish the season averaging double figures in both points and rebounds, all of this coming after not recording a double-double once last year.

Mulligan attributes her progress to the extra time she has spent with the coaching staff, a blessing in disguise resulting from UMass’ limited roster.

“I think I built up my confidence a lot more this year and there was a lot more one-on-one time with the coaches to develop my skill because we have such low numbers. I think that’s a big part of it,” Mulligan said.

“I think she’s probably one of the most-improved players in the country,” Verdi said, adding that Mulligan is also likely a candidate to make the A-10 All-Conference Team.

Guard Leah McDerment, who joined the program at the same time as Mulligan and is now Mulligan’s “bestie” as McDerment put it, has enjoyed watching her friend and teammate’s development this year.

“It’s been amazing. I feel like Maggie is finally getting the credit she deserves,” McDerment said. “I think it’s just great to be able to see her flourish and see how far she’s come.”

Both entering their senior year next year, McDerment thinks Mulligan can improve even more going into next season.

“I think that there’s so much more to come with Maggie as well. She’s not done yet and I think that next year for us as seniors, I think it’s going to be a really good year and she’s going to be even better,” McDerment said.

Although Mulligan’s currently only concerned with beating the Rams, McDerment believes if she does earn her 20th double-double of the season, it’s something Mulligan can appreciate more in the offseason.

“I think to Maggie it’s not something she actively thinks about, she just goes out there and does her thing,” McDerment said. “But I think once the season’s over and she can look back and be like, ‘wow, I got 20 double-doubles,’ I think that will make her really proud and she’ll know all the hard work and all of the summer workouts have definitely paid off.”

Wednesday’s game at URI is scheduled to tip-off at 7 p.m.

Jamie Cushman can be reached at jrcushman@umass.edu, and followed on Twitter @Jamie__Cushman.

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