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March 20, 2019

John Becker

Hartford, Connecticut

JOHN BECKER: Yeah, exciting to be home in Connecticut, the opportunity to play an Tournament game in Hartford. We're looking forward to tomorrow afternoon against a really good Florida State team, hopefully get a good turnout from our Catamount fans and New England basketball fans. We're really looking forward to tomorrow.

Q. Coach, playing against Louisville and Kansas, what did that do, that experience, especially the success a couple of your guys really had in those games. What does that do going into a game like this?
JOHN BECKER: I think it's going to help us out tremendously. We put together a really challenging nonconference schedule that included at Louisville and at Kansas. So, hopefully, that will pay benefits tomorrow. I think this will be the most athletic and longest team we play all year. I think it will be an adjustment getting used to the size and athleticism. Hopefully once the game starts and we get a feel for that, we'll settle of in.

Q. Coach, you've obviously been back here plenty of times at least in the area. When is the last time you played in this building or coached in this building? Is it nice to be back and see some friendly tastes?
JOHN BECKER: It's really exciting for me and my family to have this opportunity. Last time I was in this building, I think I took my daughter to see the Eagles here a couple years ago. But the last time for a basketball game was their National Championship year Kemba Walker and those guys, and it was pretty neat, Ryen Russillo gave the pregame talk. Mike Lonergan was a head coach, I was assistant and we were up three at the half, and things changed in the second half unfortunately.

But they went on to win the National Championship. Napier was a freshman and Kemba, pretty good back court they had there. Yeah, it will be really, really neat tomorrow to be able to coach out here and be the head coach in a NCAA Tournament game in my home state.

Q. Coach, when you look at Florida State, you put together your game plan, is it three thing, five things? What do you focus on going into a game against them?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah, I mean, it's a pretty simple game plan and offensively, we're going to have to make a lot of shots, shoot a lot of threes just because of their size in and around the basket. And offensively, rebound is important. We're a really good defensive team, but we haven't played the likes of this size before. So we're going to have to really clean up the glass and box out and get rebounds.

If we can do that, we can get out and play in transition and hopefully attack them early before they can get their defense set. So, you know, there's a lot of similarities to our recent games, as far as the game plan goes, and, we'll see.

Q. Two quick ones for you, first one, what can you say about Anthony's maturation this season and how much will the team rely on him today -- I mean, tomorrow and how can the team continue to stay as dialed in as they were in the conference tournament?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. Anthony's been amazing this year. You know, his growth as a player, he's really -- his perimeter skills have really improved in three-point shot, it really made him a hard cover. But most importantly, as a leader, he's been tremendous, and he's become -- along with Ernie Duncan, become the leader of this team. He's been there every day for us and every night. He shoots 35 percent of our shots which is very different than how most Vermont teams play, where it's much more balanced scoring. We've really relied on Anthony, night in and night out. And he's delivered.

And the other piece of him offensively, has really become a complete player and really passed the ball when he double- and triple-teamed, was an all-defensive player this year, which I'm really proud of. He's become a two-way player. So, that's -- he's going to be important for us, obviously, again, tomorrow.

And what was the second part of your question?

Q. How can you keep your teams focused?
COACH BECKER: Yeah, we've been really, really focused. For a young team, that's been really important for us, and we've gotten better as the year has gone on. And I thought our conference tournament was the best we've done all year of executing our system and executing the game plan, and, you know, for a full 40 minutes. Our guys did a really good job with that, and, you know, there will be excitement early in the game around being in a NCAA Tournament, but hopefully we can calm down early in the game and settle in, get a feel for their athleticism and go out there and play to win.

Q. John, I'm wondering, your experience coaching at Gallaudet, how that shaped your career, unique experience, has it made you become a different coach in some ways?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. I learned a lot from that experience as a young coach. The first and probably most important is the value of communication and where I had to teach myself sign language to communicate with my players and other coaches. And I took that really seriously, and, you know, really proud that, was able to communicate there. And, we take for granted the communication piece. And I never have since then, and we overcommunicate in our program here, and understand the importance of that and the value of that and how easy it is for us. And the friendships I made there, and just to be part of that culture and part of that community, gave me a great appreciation for a lot of things that I have and that we have. You know, I stay hopefully a little bit a part of that community I bring forward with me, and it's made me a better coach for your.

Q. What UMBC did last year, was that relevant at all for the conference? I know this isn't a 160 match-up.
COACH BECKER: Yeah, we're really proud as a conference member, we're really proud what UMBC was able to conference this year. So, I think as a conference, we have confidence and we want to be competitive and we want to win games in the tournament. We can see what that does for us, and they helped give us confidence. We've won some NCAA tournament games, obviously Syracuse game and Lamar in the First Four in 2012. So as a conference, we really pride ourselves as being a little underappreciated and undervalued.

So this is our opportunity to show the country just how good of a conference we are. So we're here representing our conference and we expect to -- we expect to advance.

Q. John, can you talk a little about the preparation to play Florida State with your reserves, because they're not quite the same length and same athleticism. How did you prepare and how did those guys prepare for their role in getting your starters ready?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. I think our -- our bench is going to have to play well tomorrow. I mean, just with how hard Florida State plays. They play 11 guys, and, you know, to play the full 40 minutes, we're going to have to trust the bench. They're going it have to be productive. We're going to have to keep rotating guys so that we can play the whole game, so to speak, and so, our bench has been inconsistent all year, has been much better. You know, we -- I tinkered with the starting lineup more than we ever had this year as recently as the conference playoffs. Our bench is constantly evolving. I like where our starters and who we have coming off the bench and how they complement each other. We will need them to play well.

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