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Mulligan’s defense, rebounding helps push Minutewomen past Saint Peters

(Collegian file photo)

In a game where offensive efficiency was down at the start, it was senior center Maggie Mulligan’s effort on the boards that got the gears moving for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team against Saint Peters on Sunday.

The 6-foot-2-inch senior center out of Boston was able to rack up a season-high 19 points, along with an impressive career-high 18 rebounds in the win.

So far this season, Mulligan has been averaging 11 points and nearly nine rebounds, and has been the centerpiece for the team on the defensive side of the ball. Her interior presence complements pesky perimeter defense from freshman Bre Hampton-Bey and sophomore Hailey Leidel, who each fought for three steals in the contest.

“[Mulligan’s] huge,” said head coach Tory Verdi. “You look at her minutes, she played almost the entire game and having 19 points and 18 rebounds is huge for us. She anchors us defensively, and what she did tonight was pretty impressive.”

In the first quarter, it was Mulligan who was able to keep the Minutewomen in the game offensively, making all of her shots and ending the first with 10 points and four rebounds. She grabbed five more rebounds before the end of the first half.

Mulligan’s rebounding on the offensive end was also impressive as she grabbed nine of the team’s 14 offensive rebounds in the game.

“Even if it’s not me putting it back up, I can get it out to my teammates and we can set something else up,” Mulligan said.

The team’s scoring output saw a boost in the second half, especially in the fourth where UMass shot 72 percent from the field. Mulligan continued her good play in the second half, picking up seven more points and nine more rebounds to go along with 16 second-half points from junior forward Genesis Rivera. Mulligan struggled a little bit at the line shooting 3-7, however she was not far off her 54 percent average from the charity stripe.

Verdi has talked a lot about getting the team to have a better showing in the fourth quarter of games, which they did on Sunday. The Minutewomen went 8-11 from the field, 2-3 from beyond the arc, and made all six free throw attempts to close out the game in the fourth.

“I thought we did a pretty good job of keeping our composure when the ball wasn’t going in for us in the first half,” said coach Verdi. “They did a pretty good job of attacking the zone in the first half and we didn’t have the energy that we needed to have. We made the defensive adjustment of going man in the second half and I thought that paid dividends for us.”

Mulligan was waving her hand in the low post all game long, trying to let her teammates know that she wanted the ball because she knew she could score.

“I think I’ve gotten a lot more confident, developed my skill a lot more; it’s good to get that double-double but I’m just glad we got the win,” Mulligan said. “I’m very confident, I don’t like to let the defender get in my head; it’s me and my game when I’m in the post.”

This game marked Mulligan’s 24th career double-double and was the sixth game this season that she finished with at least 10 points. Mulligan plays a huge role on this team in the middle, and is a player that the team will miss when she graduates at the end of this season.

Cam Sibert can be reached at csibert@umass.edu or followed on Twitter at @camsibert.

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