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March 17, 2016

Nate Oats

Nick Perkins

Lamonte Bearden

C.J. Massinburg

Providence, Rhode Island

Miami - 79, Buffalo - 72

NATE OATS: I couldn't be more proud of the kids I coached this year. It's pretty well-documented what we've been through as a program with everything, and they just played their tails off for us all year.

We were one open three -- we missed two open threes that would have cut that thing to one possession there late in the game. We were just a couple stops or shots away from -- we had a lead for a lot of the first half, too. So I think a lot of our kids proved they belong on a big stage like this. I'm so happy for them because they gave everything they had to the program through the whole year.

I want to give credit to Miami, too. Coach Larranaga, he used to coach in the MAC, ton of respect for him through the years. Took a mid-major program in George Mason to the Final Four. We knew they weren't going to overlook us. They played hard. They made it tough on us. They made some big plays when they needed to, and we just didn't quite have enough there in the second half to get the win.

But can't say enough about the kids I coached this year for the whole year.

Q. C.J., obviously your first shot at playing in the tournament. How do you feel like it went, and what kind of experience is this for you to build on?
C.J. MASSINBURG: Man, it was a great experience. It was a great experience. I'm just happy to be here with my teammates. I'm really proud of them. I feel like we gave it all that we had, and we just came up short. Obviously next year we want to try to get back here.

Q. Lamonte, obviously they have the big rim protectors, and they kept you guys from getting too many points in the paint in the first half. The second half just seemed like you scored, yourself scored on a bunch of tough shots in the lane. Just talk about the second half, getting inside, and going after their big men.
LAMONTE BEARDEN: I just tried to create for myself, not only myself but my teammates. They did have a lot of big guys that can jump and affect my shot, but I did feel like I missed a couple easy ones, too. I did a good job tonight.

Q. Nick, can you talk about the satisfaction of playing here and doing the great job you guys did, and at the same time the disappointment because nobody wants to leave here and just a couple of shots and the whole outcome could have been different.
NICK PERKINS: Yeah, the experience is great, coming here and playing with my great teammates, Coach Oats, all the stuff we've been through this year. It really makes coming here better for the second time in a row. As a freshman being able to come here and do that. But it does hurt coming here and losing because we didn't want to stop. We wanted to win this game and keep it going.

It does feel good to get here again. We can probably keep this thing going the next few years, yeah.

Q. Lamonte, when you saw what Yale did tonight, did that give you guys a little bit of a jolt that the underdog can win these games?
LAMONTE BEARDEN: That did give us a little bit of juice and fire to see that an upset can happen. We just wanted to come out and play our game, no matter what Yale did.

Q. Nick, two things: One, it seems like you love that top of the key three. Did you feel like that got you going? And then just what went right for you tonight?
NICK PERKINS: I can say the preparation the last few days, working with Coach in practice, working on my three, being more consistent with it, I felt that prepared me well tonight. We all worked a lot. It just helped me -- I mean, the first one did get me going, but I felt like the preparation into this game got me going more than the first three did.

Q. Lamonte, can you talk about that last three-point shot that you made? You had the two to make it a four-point game, and then I believe it was the next possession you had a three that would have made it a one-point game. How did you feel when the shot left your hand?
LAMONTE BEARDEN: I felt like it was good, but I came up a little short.

Q. Lamonte, I just talked to some fans upstairs. They are hyped even though the outcome didn't go how you guys and they wanted it to go, said they really saw a lot with you this year. Excited about the growth in fans over the last couple seasons?
LAMONTE BEARDEN: I'm really excited. We have a great fan base this year, and hopefully there will be more people to come see us and watch us play.

Q. You look up here and there's a lot of youth. This has got to feel like this is a stepping-stone to something really, really big, right?
C.J. MASSINBURG: Yeah, this year we've got a lot of young guys, and we had two seniors that are leaving. Credit to those guys. They really helped out the team this year.

But we're obviously disappointed about the loss. But in the back of our heads, we do know that we have a lot of young players, and next year, in the next couple of years we're still going to continue to be strong. We've got Blake Hamilton coming back, us three up here, we've got Willie. We know in the back of our heads we've got to stay with it, and we started a trend, so we've got to keep it up.

Q. Nick, can you talk about defense against their big guys? Their big guys definitely were a factor on defense, but they didn't really kill you on offense. Can you just talk about your personal defense really last week against Big Dog and this week?
NICK PERKINS: It's definitely different than guarding Big Dog. These guys are more athletic, more agile, more mobile bigs. I just tried to use my body and body up. They're not really that offensively skilled than Big Dog. It was really different. I kind of had to help the guards out more on the drive and stuff, more of that stuff, and watch out for the back door oops because they were throwing those a little bit. But other than that, it was just more me helping the guards out more on defense than how I was last week where I had to defend one-on-one with Big Dog.

Q. C.J., you guys are so young, how much closer can going through something like this and the season you went through, being here in the NCAAs, bring a team together? How much closer can you guys come because of going through this together?
C.J. MASSINBURG: Man, honestly, right now we're pretty close. This season we went through a lot of things and we went through a lot of deaths and a lot of sicknesses. I really think that that brought us all together to be able to accomplish what we accomplished this year. And this experience, I think that a lot of guys last year that played today, they learned from last year and they spread a little wisdom to us that -- obviously it's our first time. But this year really helped us out, and it's going to give us fuel to get here next year, too.

Q. First of all, Nick, just talk about his development and his game today, a career high.
NATE OATS: What you saw today was kind of what I envisioned when we recruited him out of Michigan. I mean, I knew he could make open threes, big guy, can go inside, outside, both. We didn't plan on getting him in as early as we did. Ikenna got the two quick fouls but we wanted to play him a ton of minutes tonight because I felt he could putt Jekiri out of the lane, kind of open it up for us. When Ikenna got the two quick ones, it was an easy decision.

We had put in a new package, and we put in three new plays for this game to kind of get Nick the ball, popping out. Hopefully Jekiri just sitting in the lane trying to clog it up like he does, and they worked. Like two out of the three worked first time we ran them, got threes off them, which is big. You're able to open up a lead early on them. With teams like that they maybe get a little tighter. That's what we talked about, trying to jump on them early, maybe they can get tight, we catch fire. It goes that way. I don't know if they got tired or not. They're well-coached. But we did jump on them early, and Nick's threes helped a lot, and we planned on playing him a bunch of minutes tonight, and it worked out well for us.

But I think -- until he got in foul trouble there in the second half, I think, though, his progression over the last month in practice has been huge. He was big last week. I mean, we beat some good teams. Akron was, I think, 28th in the RPI. Akron is a really good team. They should have beat Ohio State first round of the NIT at Ohio State. The job he did on Isaiah Johnson, he picked it up offensively and defensively both, and he hit three threes I think, against Ohio. So I can't be happier for Nick. He's just a great kid that's starting to play well at the right time for us this year.

Q. Given everything that this team has been through and everything that you personally have been through, how satisfying is it to make it this far?
NATE OATS: I mean, I thanked all those guys in the locker room just from the bottom of my heart for everything they gave to me personally through the year with everything that I've kind of gone through. It wasn't just me, we've had multiple -- Nikola's mother passed away, had to go back to Serbia, Coach Whitesell's brother passed away. I think the players talked about some of the stuff that's drawn us together. I think we've got a really good group of kids. They're not perfect. We deal with kids and they're still kids. But I just -- for me personally, you saw how hard they played for us last year in the MAC tournament, and even tonight I thought they laid everything out there. We missed some shots. They've got some great athletes that made it tough to finish in the lane, blocking shots. But I thought we played hard, which is really all you can ask to get the guys zoned into the scouting report mentally and then physically give everything you've got, and I thought they gave it to us.

It's disappointing we lost. We could have made a few more shots, but I'm really happy with the way the season went, just from what everybody predicted, what they thought we'd do. I think some guys proved some people wrong here this year.

Q. Just in the locker room with the guys, and they're already talking about what they achieved this year, not letting this loss define what this season was. For you as a coach, can you talk about the emotions of this game but having your guys know, hey, back-to-back MAC championships, getting here, for UB this is still a stellar year?
NATE OATS: Yeah, they've never gone. Last year was the first year, so to go back to back, Jarryn and Rodell, and maybe didn't have as great a game as they would have hoped tonight, but those two leave with two rings. I'm not going to talk about anything negative. I'm not talking about anything on the stat sheet that's not -- we just talked about what a great year it was, walk out of here with your head up, accomplished something that's never been -- it's been almost 20 years, I think, since anybody in the MAC went back to back to the NCAA Tournament. So for us to do it, and really we only did it with three returning guys that played in the rotation. All the new guys walk out of here with their heads up, and those two seniors leave with two rings. I think it's a special, special group of kids for us.

Q. You look at the guys that you had up there, Bearden had 19, Perkins had 20, C.J. had a nice game. It's got to be pretty good building blocks knowing all those guys are coming back.
NATE OATS: Yeah, you know what, I like our future a lot, the recruiting class, arguably the best one we've brought in here to go with these guys coming back. Played 10 guys tonight. Seven of those 10 are back. A lot of scoring is back. A lot of guys -- you saw who we had in at the end of the Akron game, all five of those are back. C.J. and Nick, those are two of the better freshmen in the league. I'll put Nick up against a lot of high major bigs right now, and C.J. is playing, and I think Lamonte kind of proved again that he belongs at this level. I think he proved -- Rodriguez is one of the best guards in the ACC. I think he proved -- Lamonte went head to head with him all night. He's got a little size on him. Rodriguez is tough. He hit some shots when they needed them. Again, if Lamonte can improve his outside shooting a little bit, I think he's got a chance to play for some money after this thing is all said and done.

Q. Just to piggyback off that, as we sat here last year after last season, it seemed like there was a core group going forward that could dominate the conference for a little while. Seems like there's the same optimism here and it's a completely new group. How good does it feel to know that you guys were able to restock and already it seems like we have a new core that can go forward and be dominant?
NATE OATS: Yeah, it feels great just because when the coaching change happened, I was here, we tried to maintain as many guys as we could, keep them -- some left on their own accord, but Justin's wasn't. That was a little disappointing. But for us to bring in these new guys and get them to buy in as quick as they were. And for Blake and Willie, we knew we needed immediate help. I think those two were huge for us this year. Then with the freshmen playing as well as they do. You guys didn't really get a chance to see Nikola play this year. I think he's going to be really good for us in the future. He just kind of had to adjust to the American style of play, and he'll be a lot better next year. We have had some conversations about what it's going to be like for him next year.

I love our group coming back, and I'm excited. We're not going to start -- we're going to give them some weeks off here, get their bodies rested and whatnot, but we're going to get back in that gym, get back to some individual workouts and make these guys better, and looking forward to next year already.

Q. You mentioned Rodriguez a little bit. How much tougher is it to beat a No. 3 seed when they've got veteran guards like Rodriguez and McClellan.
NATE OATS: That's the one guys, and I didn't talk to our guys about it, but moving forward in the future. Last year we were a 12 seed. It's a little bit easier playing a 5 than it is playing a 3. We've got to do a really good job next year just with our regular season. We can't give away -- we were new, so it was a little harder, our schedule was a little tougher non-conference than it probably should have been. If we would have had Justin, we would have been a little more primed to play some of those teams we played early. We've just got to do a better job through the course of the year trying to get our RPI a little higher, our win-loss record a little better, so we don't end up as a 14 seed. It's a hard game. They were, I think, No. 11 in the last AP poll. That's a good team. They're one of the best teams in arguably the best conference in the country. So for us to play head to head with them for the majority of the game, I think speaks volumes to us. If we could have gotten maybe -- played a 5 seed instead of a 3 seed, we'd have probably had a little bit better shot of pulling the upset off. That's one thing we'll talk about -- not right now -- but in the summer, in the fall. If we're going to get back to the NCAA Tournament, try to win a game or two, let's try to play -- let's not play a 3 seed, let's try to push ourselves up in that 8, 9 game maybe, or something like that, something a little closer than the 14 seed.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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