Mulligan hopes last time is charm

Ex-UMBC standout leads Manhattan against Loyola

February 06, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

In his first collegiate game, Peter Mulligan scored 25 points to uphold his stature as the New York state high school Player of the Year and help UMBC defeat Loyola in the now-defunct Battle of Baltimore season-opening tournament.

Today at Reitz Arena, Mulligan will bring his well-rounded game to Baltimore for the final time to face Loyola again as the leading light for two-time defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion Manhattan. His sights are now set on a higher league.

"I spent two years of my life in Baltimore and made a lot of friends there," Mulligan said yesterday as the Jaspers headed to the city via bus.

"I'm always excited to be coming back. But coming back home [transferring out of UMBC] was best for me. I needed to be somewhere that would help my future basketball career. UMBC had a lot of young talent, but it didn't look like that would happen there."

Mulligan shifted into a pot of gold, joining a talented, veteran team that dominated the MAAC and made a stir in the NCAA tournament last March with a 75-60 first-round romp over Florida and a near-upset of Wake Forest that, if pulled off, would have put his team into the Sweet 16.

The Jaspers finished 16-2 in the league and 25-6 overall, and their star, guard Luis Flores, is now with the NBA's Golden State Warriors.

"We got a lot of publicity and looks from the NBA," Mulligan said. "So, the season we had can't hurt my chances. That is my real goal, one of my dreams."

For the moment, coach Bobby Gonzalez and his star are struggling to cope with an extremely young lineup that has three freshman starters and a grueling schedule that has included six of the past seven games on the road.

Manhattan brings a 10-10 record to Loyola and is only 5-7 in the MAAC after a last-second loss at Iona on Friday night.

"We're everybody's Super Bowl," Gonzalez said. "There's a bull's-eye on our back. They stormed the court [at Iona]."

Despite constant defensive attention, Mulligan - who was suspended for one game after an off-campus incident - is averaging a team-high 20.1 points and 35 minutes and is the second-leading rebounder.

A co-captain, he's also tops in steals. Because Flores, the two-time MAAC Player of the Year, and a host of other front-line talent is gone, he has had to undertake a monstrous burden.

As for UMBC, he has nothing but kind words for the school and former coach Tom Sullivan, and he found it "unfortunate that things got too heated" when Sullivan was dismissed last season. "I appreciated the opportunity he gave me."

Since leaving the Retrievers, Mulligan said he has played less in the open court and more in a leadership role.

As a UMBC freshman he averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds; in his sophomore year, those totals improved to 16.0 and 7.8, respectively. But the Retrievers never got past the semifinals of the Northeast Conference tournament, and the NCAA showcase he sought eluded Mulligan.

"I give myself a B-plus this year," he said. "I'm pretty satisfied with myself, but the team can always do better. I'm used to winning a lot more games."

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