Maggie Mulligan’s career day leads UMass women’s basketball in win over CCSU Wednesday

By Thomas Johnston

(Judith Gibson-Okunieff/Daily Collegian)

In a dominant performance from start to finish, the Massachusetts women’s basketball team defeated Central Connecticut State 76-37 Wednesday afternoon at Mullins Center behind Maggie Mulligan’s career-high 33 points.

UMass (3-2) controlled the paint from the opening tip, outscoring the Blue Devils 48-4 inside, much of that due to Mulligan. CCSU had no answer for the 6-foot-2 Mulligan down low, used her size to get easy baskets in the paint. She shot over 77 percent from the floor, converting on 14-of-18 shots from the field.

However Mulligan’s big day was not just on the offensive end, as she added 12 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.

“Maggie was unbelievable,” Minutewomen coach Tory Verdi said. “She was owning the paint and scoring on just about every touch down low.”

UMass’ defense swarmed the Blue Devils throughout the game, holding them to just 22 percent from the field.  The Minutewomen forced CCSU into 25 turnovers, many of them coming off of their full-court press. The Blue Devils employ an overload-style offense, and Verdi had his team prepared to defend it.

“Once they overloaded, the play was dead. Everything was one-on-one defensively at that point and that put us in good positon,” Verdi said. “We knew we needed to be aggressive from the start. Defense creates offense and it did that here for us tonight. We held them to four points in the first nine in the third and three in the fourth and when you hold them to 16 points in three quarters, good things will happen for you.”

UMass carried the momentum gained from Sunday’s buzzer-beater victory over Montana into Wednesday’s game. A Hailey Leidel 3-pointer with four seconds remaining in the quarter put the Minutewomen up 24-4 going into the first break.

CCSU showed signs of life in the second quarter, as it connected on 5-of-6 3’s. The Blue Devils (1-3) were led by sophomore Kiana Patterson, who had 14 of her points come in the first half.

After having a halftime lead of 38-25, UMass put its foot on the gas and exploded in the second half. Verdi made the necessary defense adjustments, throwing a full-court press at the Blue Devils. The press gave CCSU fits, as it was unable to get into an offense and turned the ball over 13 times in the half

The Minutewomen’s defense led to easy points on the offensive end, as they scored 26 points in just the third quarter alone.

“The one thing about this team, regardless of who we play, is we come out and compete for 40 minutes. I’m so thankful as a coach for that,” Verdi said after the game.

As is with every game for UMass, it only brought in two players off the bench (Megan Burke and Gabrielle Kenefick), who combined to play just 21 minutes. Mulligan got her first rest in three games at the four-minute mark in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.

Verdi has his team prepared for the extensive minutes, and was pleased with the results.

“They don’t have any other options. They have to play. (Mulligan) knows she has to play the full 40 minutes for us,” Verdi said. “The attitude is mind over matter and understanding that there’s a point in the game where you hit that wall and you just have to get through it. These players are learning how to do that, and when you do, that’s what takes you from being good to being great and that’s what will ultimately lead to championships for the University of Massachusetts.”

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected]