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March 15, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Trae Bell-Haynes, Anthony Lamb, and Cam Ward. Questions, please.
Q. Anthony, how excited are you to go up against a guy like Caleb Swanigan?
ANTHONY LAMB: It's a great opportunity. I'm truly looking forward it. It will be like a NBA, playing against NBA caliber player. That test is going to be the first I've had in my lifetime so far. I'm definitely looking forward to it, and I'm happy to be going with my brothers.
Q. Trae, if you could just speak to why you have had success on the defensive end of the floor this season, what's the kind of style that you play?
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: I just think we're really connected as a team on the defensive end. Anyone coming in, communication is probably the biggest part as a team. We know where each other are on the court at all times and we know where we should be. So far this year, we've been rebounding well defensively and guarding the 3-point line and stuff that kind killed us last season. I think that's kind of why the communication is cleaning the defensive rebounding in the lineup.
THE MODERATOR: Let's get Cam involved. Just your thoughts about this matchup tomorrow and how you feel the mood of the team is.
CAM WARD: I think the mood is at an all-time high. We're all very excited to play. We worked very hard to get here to just have this opportunity and especially for me to come back to Milwaukee, home state of Wisconsin. I'm really looking forward to it, and it's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Anthony, what has allowed you to have success this year personally?
ANTHONY LAMB: Personally it's been my teammates getting me in the right spots, and just like putting the work in before the season is very important. But if I didn't have teammates like Trae and everybody else attacking the basket, I wouldn't have the open looks I have that I've seen throughout the year.
Q. Cam, what has Anthony meant for you guys this year?
CAM WARD: He's meant a lot. It's really hard to deny that. He's a really, really big piece of our program and big piece of this team. And I mean, I think the people don't know how good of a guy he really is. He came in, just worked hard and just wanted to win it for more than just himself but for us.
Q. Have you guys talked at all about the last time Vermont was a 13th seed with TJ Sorrentine and things like that in the tournament? Does that come up ever?
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: I think it comes up more from the people around us. And TJ hit the huge shot, which is the story we've all heard and story we heard being recruited here. But we don't really talk about it obviously. We use it as some inspiration. If they can do it, we can do it too. We don't talk about it too much.
Q. Trae, will you think about taking a shot that far away from the 3-point line like TJ did, potentially and just in general in the game?
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: If under five seconds in the first half or maybe under five seconds in the shot clock can't go anywhere, I'll take it. Maybe Cam or Ernie, maybe Kurt, too, but not me, not me.
Q. Anthony, I know you won't guard him, Isaac Haas, 7-foot-2, 290 pounds. I'm not sure how often you guys have seen a player like that. What problems does he present?
ANTHONY LAMB: Really like not having played anybody else of that caliber, that's really the challenge, like not having any experience. I feel like that's the biggest problem that it presents. It's going to be tough definitely because like we have nobody to like match up the high wire to, but definitely we're going to handle it as a group and we have things that can hopefully handle him.
THE MODERATOR: Down the line, it's been such a great season, kind of just the journey this week getting ready for coming here and what you'll do between now and game time. Trae, first.
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: Probably play Call of Duty on my downtime at the hotel. That's probably what I got.
ANTHONY LAMB: Probably going to call my mom.
CAM WARD: I room with Trae, so I'll be next to him playing Call of Duty, honestly.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? Yes.
Q. To win as many the games as you guys have won in a row this year, what are the things you have to do to focus on to avoid getting complacent and still work hard each week, even though the wins keep coming day after day?
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: We avoided complacency, knowing we had set little goals and we reached one and there was another goal right after. One of the first, like as soon as conference play started, was steal as many games on the road as we could. And we kind of went through the first half, beat Albany at Albany, beat Stony Brook at Stony Brook. We have a chance to go 16-0. Try that. Clinch home court. When we got to the playoffs, play 120 minutes of the hardest and best basketball. Now, where we're at, we've got 40 minutes and completely new season. We're going to go out there and try to win that.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else? All right. Thanks, guys. Good luck tomorrow night.
Welcome Vermont Coach, John Becker. Questions, please.
Q. Coach, can you speak to how your team is different than the one that played Purdue last year in terms of matchups, personnel, and the way you're playing and so on.
COACH BECKER: Yeah, we're a much better defensive team, have more depth up-front and, you know, against Purdue last year they scored 107 and made 18 3s. We've done a much better job of guarding the 3-point line this year. That will be a big deal again tomorrow night.
Q. What's Anthony meant to you guys this year?
COACH BECKER: Anthony Lamb has been tremendous for us. He's grown a lot. Was Freshman of the Year in our conference, Rookie of the Year in our conference. He's become a go-to guy down the stretch.
One thing that's been very evident with Anthony, the moment is not too big for him. He's not afraid of the moment. The biggest games of our season late in the year he played his best. And even in the Championship game where he struggled from the floor, he made 6 free throws down the stretch that were huge to kind of turning that game.
So he's a special player and really provides an inside-out threat for us and really rebounds the ball well and -- but most importantly from a character standpoint, he has that clutch gene, it seems. He's certainly not afraid of the moment.
Q. Coach, just talking to the guys in the locker room, has it hit them yet the -- where they are, what they're doing? I know getting here a day early might have been -- Kurt even saying that not yet, you know, maybe until tomorrow.
COACH BECKER: Yeah. I think once they go out on the court, back there in the locker room but certainly when they go out on the court and see the set-up and, you know, finally feel like they've arrived -- we've been here for a couple days, been over at Marquette and over at the Bucks facility, in and around town, practicing and staying out of town. But now being here at the site, you know, I think when they go out on that court and see the size of the arena and see the NCAA logos and whatnot, it will hit them and I think the excitement will start to build.
Q. There was a story here a number of years about Will Brown at Albany using broomsticks to try to simulate the length of a UCONN team he was playing. Is there anything you do of that nature to try and imitate what the guys might see?
COACH BECKER: You know, we haven't -- we could try to score against a brick wall, is probably the closest thing we could do to try to emulate the size of Haas and Swanigan.
No. We've played a pretty competitive non-conference game. We played these guys last year. So our guys have played a lot of big games against bigger teams and, you know, it will take a little bit of adjustment early in the game to figure it out. You know, our guys are -- played against some high level competition. So, we won't do anything typically to kind of try to get them used to it, no.
Q. Coach, talking to Cam yesterday after the practice at Marquette, he really referred to it as a business trip even though this is his home state. And seems like that's really been the mentality of this team, not just today but this whole season.
COACH BECKER: Yeah. These guys have been incredibly focused all year, and they've taken it one game at a time. And it's a cliche, but these guys have done it and it's a huge deal. It separates champions from people who just fall short. And they've been -- I asked them to really try to enjoy this, you know, these few -- this event. But when we get on court or get in the film room, we've got to get back to work and have a change of our mindset, and the guys have done a really good job with that.
And we'll have one more walk-thru tomorrow before the game, and they'll be ready to play tomorrow night.
Q. Coach, your bench has played such a big role this season. Do you expect to utilize the bench in this game or you've kind of slowed it down a little bit over the last couple of games? How would you utilize DP or Cam Ward?
COACH BECKER: We've played nine, ten guys all year. As the playoffs came, I've tightened the rotation. It was eight for the first couple playoff games and essentially six in the Championship game. I prefer to play a bigger bench. We'll have to see how the game goes. I do think in a game like this, our front court depth should be something that we can use, you know, to get fresh bodies on these guys, prevent us from getting in foul trouble.
So, guys will get an opportunity to get in the game tonight, you know. The guys that have been in the rotation the whole year will earn a right to play in the game. It's just then on them. How they play when they get out there will determine how many minutes they play after that.
Q. Before the season started, you anticipate having as much balanced scoring as you have throughout the year?
COACH BECKER: Yeah, that's how we've always played since I've been head coach is very balanced. We've never -- I think in all my years as a head coach never had anyone average more than 13 points. I believe in sharing the ball. We really preach defense and rebounding. And I understand in order to get guys to play at the highest level on that end, they got to touch it once in awhile, score it once a while, have a play run for them. I also think it makes it harder for us to be scouted. And it's just kind of the culture of our program is very unselfish. I have to actually ask guys to shoot more, you know, because they'll pass up wide open shots to get their teammate a shot. At times we're almost too unselfish, but I'd rather have that than the alternative.
Q. How important has the impact of Dre Wills and Kurt Steidl been to this team both on and off court?
COACH BECKER: Those two guys came in together. They are, you know, from opposite backgrounds to a large extent and -- but they're best of the friends, and they have been a huge part of this program throughout their career and especially this year.
You know, I think Dre Wills has had a tremendous year as a senior and has been the difference, has been the X factor last month of the season. He's played at a high level, scoring the ball, which he never used to do, and really defensively, he was Defensive Player of the Year this year. And since he's gotten that recognition, his defense has even gotten better. It's given him confidence in what he's doing.
And Kurt, you know, has played more early in his career as a freshman, but he hit two of the biggest shots in the championship game and to a degree saved our season, you know, with some shots where we couldn't get anything to go. And both those guys have been tremendously leaders off the court. They've been the engine driving this thing. It's been a unique year in the sense that these guys have been super focused and motivated, and I haven't had -- I've just kind of been along for the ride. These guys have known what they wanted to do to get here since last March, and they have -- with Dre and Kurt's leadership, they have -- they've been laser focused.
Q. How would Purdue potentially test your defense? You said you're a different team. So are they.
COACH BECKER: Yeah. I mean, you know, we want to be balanced inside and out, you know, and it's going to be hard to score in there. We'll have to find ways to score in the paint. That's what we do. You know, they have size, you know. I think that is going -- hopefully doesn't make us one dimensional. We do not want to just shoot 3s the whole game.
I think we'll have our opportunities from 3, and hopefully we can make our fair share, but we want -- we don't want to become one dimensional. And with the team that big and strong, they potentially could make you one dimensional.
THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach?
Q. The inspiration from Josh Speidel, how has that impacted the team over the course of the whole season, because he's been with you from the start?
COACH BECKER: Yeah. You know, I thought about this, and what Josh has meant to us is hard to describe now that we're with him everyday and see him every day. Other than it's, you know -- you're just motivated and inspired by what he's doing on the side court everyday. He's running now and jumping and he's -- when our guys are running sprints, at the end of drills he's on the side court trying to run with the group that's last of the drill or whatever. Our guys will stop practice and cheer him on. It's just -- it's just -- he's touched everybody.
This has become a magical year. There's something happening with our program this year, and I don't think it's a coincidence that Josh Speidel is here and part of it and has something to do with that.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Coach. Good luck tomorrow night.
COACH BECKER: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports