Mullaney making moves

Junior Shayne Mullaney has given the Gophers a boost recently.

Junior Shayne Mullaney maneuvers the ball down the court at Williams Arena on Wednesday against Wisconsin.

Daily File Photo, Liam James Doyle

Junior Shayne Mullaney maneuvers the ball down the court at Williams Arena on Wednesday against Wisconsin.

by Matt Greenstein

Junior guard Shayne Mullaney is progressing at a quicker pace than she anticipated at the start of the season.

Last season, Mullaney and star senior guard Rachel Banham shared the point guard position.

And after Banham went down for the season in December due to an ACL tear, Mullaney has helped fill her void.

“With Rachel going down, it was a big loss for our team. I’ve really focused on doing the little things that make a big difference. Not one person is going to fill that big hole,” Mullaney said.

Banham’s injury left room for Mullaney’s development.

“[I] think Shayne has benefitted from Rachel’s absence. [Banham] coaches her during the game,” head coach Marlene Stollings said.

Mullaney has been a consistent point guard this year, but she’s recently shown significant progression.

 “She just goes out and plays her game. She takes what the defense gives her, and sometimes we need her to score,” senior forward Shae Kelley said. “She’s been playing well lately, and I think [it’s] key for her to have that confidence at the right time.”

Mullaney is second in the Big Ten in assists behind Iowa’s Samantha Logic, who the Gophers will play against on Tuesday.

“[I want] to have a 2-to-1 turnover-to-assist ratio and to get at least eight points per game,” Mullaney said.

Though she hasn’t quite hit her goals yet, Mullaney assisted Minnesota in its first 20-victory season since the 2007-08 season.

Not only does she distribute the ball, but in the Gophers’ previous three victories, the junior guard averaged just less than 14 points per game — which is uncharacteristic of a player who averages barely more than seven points on the season.

“If I have open shots, I’ll take them. I’ve tried to have a more aggressive mentality and attacking focus,” Mullaney said.

In Minnesota’s previous game, Mullaney set a personal record with five three-pointers.

Freshman guard Carlie Wagner has been one of Mullaney’s guard counterparts on the floor.

Wagner has a knack for scoring, but Mullaney has given her a run for her money lately.

“We can all score, especially when Shayne comes down and hits 5-of-6 threes. It just shows that our point guard has scoring potential,” Wagner said.

As the end of the season approaches, players’ progression throughout the season determines the final stretch, and Mullaney is no exception.

“This is the time of year where good players raise their level. I think we’re seeing that with her,” Stollings said. “I think you see an increase in her energy level, her leadership and her control out there on the floor.”