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March 16, 2017

John Becker

Anthony Lamb

Trae Bell-Haynes

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Purdue - 80, Vermont - 70

THE MODERATOR: Vermont Head Coach John Becker and Vermont student-athletes Trae Bell-Haynes and Anthony Lamb. We'll ask Coach to make an opening statement, and then we'll open up for questions for the student-athletes. Coach.

COACH BECKER: Yeah. We're obviously disappointed with the loss tonight, but I couldn't be more proud of this team, the way they battled tonight, you know, and just gave everything they had against a really good Purdue team and feel awful for Kurt Steidl, our senior, one of our senior leaders who is our best two-way player and a really important piece to our team.

Got injured and, you know, couldn't play the whole game for us, and that was -- that was -- you know, I felt bad for him and it affected what we did in the second half. We had to play some lineups we hadn't played all year, but I got to give our guys credit, you know, they kept battling and making plays and, you know, got to give credit to Purdue. It's a really good team that made -- they made big shots when they needed to in the second half, late into the second half, you know. I thought, you know, I thought Vincent Edwards really played well.

Obviously, Swanigan, you know, he's going to give you the numbers he gave again tonight. But Edwards played really well and then their shooters made shots when they needed to. But, you know, we've had a great season, magical season. It hurts to have it come to an end. But, you know, I'm a proud coach up here with the way our guys have played all year and how they competed tonight in the NCAA Tournament.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach. Questions for the student-athletes, please.

Q. Trae, what did you guys do so well against Purdue in the first half to really lead for almost the majority of it?
TRAE BELL-HAYNES: I think we just followed the game plan. I mean, I think we did in the first half, especially we did a really good job on Swanigan and Haas, and I don't think Edwards really got going, going in the first half, and I think we were kind of able to stifle them a little bit. And then the difference in the second half, I think right off the bat, I think Edwards was really aggressive, got to his right hand and was making plays. And I think not having Kurt in the second half to guard him, we had to put slower guys on him at certain times and really helped him out.

Q. Anthony, how challenging was it to matchup with Swanigan down low and just the first presence of the bigs that Purdue had?
ANTHONY LAMB: I really thought the biggest challenge was just like having to rotate and like ball screens. I felt like I had a lot of help from the guards coming down in. So it wasn't really that big of a problem. It was more like on ball screens having to stay with the ball and getting back to him. That was really the biggest. Everything else was really just offensively, really.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for the student-athletes? Trae and Anthony, thank you. Questions for Head Coach John Becker, please.

Q. Coach, obviously you touched on how Kurt Steidl's big loss in that second half. What were some of the adjustments you were trying to do with his absence?
COACH BECKER: Yeah. So we tried to play a big lineup and move Payton Henson at the 3 and we came in, with Dre who didn't play in the first half and tried to play some zone to give them a different look and try to shorten the game a little bit, and that worked fairly well. And then, you know, we just -- you know, brought Darren in and played him with Lamb and Payton, moved Payton to the 3 and played a little bit of zone. But offensively it became challenging because they weren't guarding Dre and they were putting Haas and Swanigan on Dre and just sitting them at the front of the rim.

So it just became very difficult to score in the paint, and, you know, Dre's kind of counter to people not guarding him, he slashes, cuts really hard, and gets a lot of finishes at the rim. And when he did that, he was cutting into a 7-footer, waiting for him at the rim. Kind of took his game away completely, and it was like, you know, they had one extra guy on defense and just became really difficult to score.

Q. John, I'm sorry if you talked about this, with Kurt, what can you tell us about his injury? It looked like they were working on his knee. Can you tell us anything specific?
COACH BECKER: He jumped up and landed to contest a shot by Mathias. He landed awkwardly. He thought it felt like his knee kind of moved to the left and to the right, just kind of moved too much, and he knew he was hurt right away. And, you know, they were looking at him obviously at halftime, and I think he's with the medical people right now, heading to the hospital to get further evaluated, you know.

But, you know, it's just devastating, you know, a kid like Kurt that means so much to this program, that works so hard and just made all the sacrifices he's made in his career, to get with all -- with the hopes of getting to this tournament and then gets here and has that injury happen to him just -- regardless of what it did and didn't do to us as a team and game plan and how it made it more difficult, as a person, I feel terrible for Kurt because I know how much this meant to him or how important this was to him.

So, you know, he's devastated, you know, and for that I hurt for him.

Q. With all the responsibility that Anthony had tonight on the defensive end of the floor, what did you think of the way he imprinted himself offensively and what he was able to do from a scoring standpoint?
COACH BECKER: The kid is unbelievable. You know, he played great on both ends of the court, you know. He's just -- you know, he's a really good player, and the bigger the game, the better he plays, and played 31 minutes, which is way more than he usually plays. He battled guys that were significantly bigger than him, obviously and made three of six 3s, made 8 of 12 shots, and just battled the whole game. And just, you know, I couldn't be more impressed with him.

THE MODERATOR: Anything else for Coach?

Q. Sorry if this was asked already, but can you put in perspective what this season has meant to your program?
COACH BECKER: You know, I think we'll start to appreciate it more, you know, once the sting of this loss goes away. But to win 29 games, to not have lost since December 21st, to go 19-0 in our conference, you know, we've done things that no other team at Vermont has done, that no other team in the America East has done. You know, I think it's -- it can't ever get better than this season as far as in-conference goes.

You know, the way our guys have done it, you know, and the energy that is in Burlington and around this program and what these kids have done, you know, it's -- it's really exciting. And as we move out into recruiting and things like that, it's only going to help us down the road.

But, you know, this loss will sting for a little while, but we've -- a lot of that no one will ever be able to take away from us. I'm really proud.

Q. When Matt was up here a few minutes ago, he said he thought you guys were one of the best teams he played all year, regardless of conference. Given the league that you play in, that there's not a lot of national exposure, what did you think about your team relative to other conferences, and did you learn anything about your guys tonight, even as well as you know them just because of the step-up in competition?
COACH BECKER: Yeah. I mean, I appreciate Coach Painter saying that and -- but we are one of the best teams in the country. We played Butler, that was our last loss, lost by 12 points. I did a bad job coaching that game. We could have won that game. A 12-point game. It was closer than that. I watched that film. I wished I had done some things differently because we played with, you know, the 13th -- or I don't know what they were at that time, but one -- top 20 team in the country on their court sold out toe-to-toe. And I knew at that point we were really good, and then we went on this -- to win 19 games in conference. To win 21 games in row, I don't care what conference you're in, it's almost impossible to do, to go 19-0 in a league where you play everyone twice and got to play three teams three times and you have to win the conference tournament to get to the NCAA Tournament.

The amount of pressure these kids have been under for the last couple of months and the way that -- we've lost to Houston by 1 point in November in a game we had won, you know, again, we didn't win so -- but they're in the NIT, they're a bubble team. We played at South Carolina, we played at Providence. We played -- they ended up being double-digit games. We're one of the best teams in the country. I was not surprised how we played tonight.

You know, matchup-wise, you know, just with two guys that big, you know, it's just -- it's hard, you know, different matchup might be different outcome for us. That's what the tournament is for lower seeds, it's about matchups. And I said this is a good matchup for us, not a great matchup for us. We got a great matchup, you know, I wouldn't put anything past this team. And yeah, we're a good team this year, really good team. I appreciate Coach Painter pointing that out.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.

COACH BECKER: Thanks everyone.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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