Maggie Mulligan the sole bright spot as unforced errors sink UMass women’s basketball against Saint Louis

By Amin Touri

Jong Man Kim/Collegian
Jong Man Kim/Collegian

Turnovers can be the downfall of any basketball team, and unforced errors were the story of the evening for the Massachusetts women’s basketball team Wednesday night.

With their work already cut out for them against a very strong Saint Louis team, the Minutewomen (9-15, 3-8 Atlantic 10) didn’t do themselves any favors, turning the ball over 21 times as the Billikens rolled to an 81-60 victory at Mullins Center.

SLU (18-5, 8-2 A-10) built a 16-point lead after the first quarter, capitalizing on a score of UMass mistakes, ranging from offensive three-second calls to players catching the ball while standing out of bounds – and everything in between.

“Well, obviously [the turnovers] didn’t help,” Verdi said, “when you turn the ball over 21 times and they’re scoring off of your turnovers. We cut into their lead a little bit right before the half, but when you cough up the ball, and they run out there and get easy one-legged layups, on top of everything else that we didn’t do here tonight, it hurts us.”

The Minutewomen cut the lead to eight points heading into the half, but a mistake-filled third quarter allowed the Billikens, the second-ranked team in the A-10, to run away with things, as UMass couldn’t get things going offensively.

Junior center Maggie Mulligan was the only bright spot in an otherwise lackluster Minutewomen performance. Racking up 22 points and 14 rebounds, Mulligan recorded her 17th double-double in twenty-four games this season, the second most in the nation.

“I just know that someone has to be the energy-bringer,” Mulligan said. “We always talk about how there’s energy-bringers and energy-suckers, and I never want to be an energy-sucker. I want to bring energy to my teammates so they can perform and I can perform.”

With leading scorer Hailey Leidel struggling to find a rhythm, and the rest of the team shooting a combined 27 percent from the floor, Mulligan continued to work in the paint, grabbing rebound after rebound and taking the ball to the basket at every opportunity.

“She’s very important,” Verdi said of Mulligan. “She needs to score for us, she’s got to take care of the basketball as well. We need her to show up each and every single night, we need everybody. You look at our depth; we need everybody every single night.”

While Mulligan handled her business on the offensive end, Saint Louis took advantage of UMass’ carelessness, outscoring the Minutewomen 21-6 off of turnovers. The Billikens racked up 26 assists and only turned the ball over eight times, while UMass struggled to pick up 12 assists against their 21 turnovers.

The turnovers aren’t a new problem for the Minutewomen, who coughed the ball up 25 times against George Washington Jan. 21 and added another 22 turnovers against Virginia Commonwealth Jan. 28.

“[The turnovers] were definitely a big part,” Mulligan said. “That’s been the case for the last couple of games. Turnovers, missed layups, it’s something we need to keep working on.”

Now on a five-game skid, UMass will need to take care of the basketball heading into the final stretch of A-10 play. Having dropped to 3-8 in the A-10, the Minutewomen will host Davidson Saturday before hitting the road to take on Fordham on Feb. 11, and Richmond Feb. 15.

Amin Touri can be reached [email protected]