Mullaney adjusts to new role

The senior guard is coming off the bench after starting most of her career.

Senior Shayne Mullaney faces pressure from Illinois defense at Williams Arena on Jan. 26.

Sam Harper, Daily File Photo

Senior Shayne Mullaney faces pressure from Illinois defense at Williams Arena on Jan. 26.

Kaitlin Merkel

Senior guard Shayne Mullaney stepped into a starting spot early in her college career, but things have changed in her final season.
 
 
After starting 76 of her 83 games during her first three years, Mullaney has had to adjust to coming off the bench this season in conference play.
 
 
“It’s a lot different, but whatever it takes for my team to win, I’m willing to do whatever Coach wants from me,” Mullaney said. “I’ve tried to use it as a source of motivation, too. … I do feel a little more relaxed and just free to play.”
 
 
Mullaney has thrived in her new role so far. She’s scored 10 or more points in seven consecutive games and 10 of the team’s 12 in conference play.
 
 
The guard is also the team’s third-highest scorer, averaging a career-high 10.1 points per game. Her rebounding average of 4.9 per game is also a career high.
 
 
“We all know Shayne could easily start, [but] we like the dynamic that it brings in bringing her off of the bench in terms of our rotations and rest ratios,” head coach Marlene Stollings said. “Shayne has been very mature in handling it. She’s a senior, and she didn’t hesitate for one moment. I talked to her about it, and she’s accepted it and performed at a very high level.”
 
 
Now forced to watch the opening tipoff from the bench, Mullaney said she uses the first few minutes of the game to go over the game plan again.
 
 
“I’ve just really tried to have a really good mentality with it and be really focused,” Mullaney said. “You don’t have the wiggle room for mistakes, so I need to go out there and play at the highest level. There’s no room for error.”
 
 
When she does enter the game, she helps the team’s fast-paced offense keep moving when the first substitutions are made.
 
 
“She can shoot just as well as the rest of us, and she just comes and attacks the rim,” redshirt senior guard Rachel Banham said. “She’s not scared, and that’s great. She gets in there and gets fouled, and she can make some crazy layups. … She just brings in a lot of variety and is another person that can just attack [the basket].”
 
 
On the court Mullaney is also one of the best distributors in program history. Her 522 career assists rank third all-time at Minnesota, and she’s averaged 4.9 assists per game over four seasons.
 
 
“It’s very special. It was definitely a goal of mine to reach 500 and to keep moving up on the board as high as I can,” Mullaney said. “I love assisting to my teammates almost more than [if] a made basket by myself. I really love distributing to them, and it feels great when you make a great pass.”
 
 
Mullaney said it’s worth the wait to get on the court because of how well she’s been playing lately.
 
 
 
“I think I maybe even have more energy coming off of the bench,” Mullaney said. “It has been way different from my first couple years, but I’m just trying to end on a high note. And no matter the circumstances, I just want to enjoy and soak up every last moment of my senior year.”