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March 21, 2019

John Becker

Stef Smith

Anthony Lamb

Hartford, Connecticut

Florida State, 76 - Vermont, 69

JOHN BECKER: Yeah, obviously very difficult when your season comes to an end, so it's really hard for our guys. But I thought we played really, really hard tonight and really, really battled a very good Florida State team. And they need to get a lot of credit for how they played especially in the second half. You know, probably wore us down a little bit with their size and athleticism, and we had a little stretch there where we missed some free-throws and some other stuff, to kind of keep us close.

But, you know, we battled all night, even on the glass in the first half, and I'm really proud of this team. It always hurts when seniors careers come to an end, like Ernie Duncan and Sammy Dingba. So we're really sad for them. But I'm really proud of my team, and I want to thank all of the Catamount fans that came down from New England, from all over the country really. It meant a lot to us to see all of the green and gold in the ground tonight. It was a special experience for our team. Unfortunately, we weren't able to win the game, but we'll take a lot of positives away from the experience.

Q. Anthony, you guys are going back and forth with them first half, early second half. What does that feel like compared to the last, say, ten minutes when they sort of seized control and started to maybe keep you guys maybe arm's length away?
ANTHONY LAMB: I think we had a couple slip-ups with the team. Those will get you if you give a few positions away. You're down by ten, then have to scramble by the end of the game. In order to beat a really good team, you have to play 40 minutes. I think there's a stretch where it just got out of hand for us. So we just had to make up for that next time we play a team like this.

Q. Stef, 16 made threes for you guys today. It was a pretty good day shooting. What wasn't clicking so much from behind the arc that leaves the team so confident from the get-go to shoot it?
ANTHONY LAMB: There was a lot of new guys are on the stage and obviously might be a little bit nervous. But shooting 50 percent from three at the end of the day is really good and a positive takeaway from the game. At the end of the day, we didn't get the win, so it doesn't really matter.

Q. Steph, getting to this point, you guys played well. If I can ask you to spin this forward, you competed with a really good team, how does that impact your confidence and regrouping as you look toward next season?
STEF SMITH: Definitely this adds a lot of fuel to the fire. I wish we could have gotten this win in this tourney, but we have to move forward from this. I'll remember this moment and try to get back here and rewrite the script.

Q. Anthony, just how close did it feel when you're out there? When it was close, what did that feel like?
ANTHONY LAMB: It felt like any other game. There's different things you have to deal with in playing really athletic, really tall team. It's just another part of the game, I think. Whenever you're within two points, three points of a team, you're always right there in the game, you're ready to go. But if you let those plays get away, then it feels like you're losing ground. That's where you got to try to stand up to them. Their athleticism got us a little bit, but we'll find a way next year.

Q. What has it been like playing alongside Ernie the last seven years, and what did he bring to the program and how will the program be different next year with him not wearing green?
STEF SMITH: It's been amazing. Ernie's been like a big brother figure to me. We play similar positions, so I try to learn from him as much as I can, and he's been a great leader for our team as well as Anthony. So it's going to be a big loss for sure. But, you know, this is also going to help us, you know, try to avenge this loss and try to get it for him next year.

ANTHONY LAMB: Yeah, Ernie Duncan is really the heart of Vermont. He's given everything he's had to this program. He's bounced back. It's really important that we try to give everything we can back to him. Even if we couldn't do it now, try to continue to work and continue to develop and try to push Vermont forward as a program. Just like Sammy and Ernie are great senior leaders that have done everything they can to help. It's on us to continue to carry the torch and do whatever we can to get it next time.

Q. Talk a little bit about Vermont usually gets shipped a long ways away. They were in Hartford, Connecticut this year. Talk about the venue and how it felt, the crowd and how much lift it did give you.
STEF SMITH: Yeah, it definitely was a big lift. The fan part was great ever since I've been in Vermont. It's been amazing to see the fans come out and support us. We just want to come back and give back to them.

ANTHONY LAMB: This is a really cool place to play. I'm grateful for all of the people that came out to support. And sorry we couldn't get it done, but I appreciate everything you do for us year out throughout the whole year.

Q. You talked about them wearing you down. When did you start to notice that that was happening, and then, when you're in a situation like that, what can you do to kind of counteract that?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah, I mean, you can just see they started to get to the glass more. You know, I think, when the kid stepped through a triple team and dunked it, it was kind of telling that we were wearing down. And as a coach, you got to make that decision. You had a lot of guys that played long minutes, but had played and were in the game. And then your bench, where guys are coming in cold, late in the NCAA Tournament game against a really good ACC opponent, you're trying to figure out what you can do there.

We tried to do a little offense, defense to get more size in there defensively to get rebounding with Sammy, and offensively, go a little bit smaller so we could spread them out. We knew we had to make a lot of threes tonight. That's the thing as a coach, trying to find that balance, what's the right thing to do and also using time-outs. Time-outs were long tonight and there were plenty of them.

Just trying to motivate your guys and push your guys, trying to dig a little bit deeper. Our guys played so hard, and they're not as naturally athletic or gifted as your opponent, that can happen. That's why it's important that we continue to develop depth, so that we can -- and they play a lot of guys on top of it. So it's like a double whammy, and we got to develop depth and have 9, 10, 11 guys that can come in and all play in this game. And so that will be something that we'll work on in recruiting and just developing.

We're a young team. We have a lot of young guys. We'll continue to develop them. Their bodies have to mature and everything. So, we're hopeful we'll be able to do that this offseason.

Q. John, what did you say to Ernie when you gave him the hug at the end of the game? And then can you expound and say what he's meant to the program especially being part of it for half a decade?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. I just told him I loved him and just gave him a hug. And he's meant a lot to this program. He's a big, big recruit for us when he came out of high school. He's kind of the guy, the connecter, that enabled us to recruit a lot of Midwestern kids. We have a lot of kids from Indiana and the Midwest. And Ernie's reputation and relationships with other players out there was the big reason we were able to get a lot of these guys that have helped build this program and propel this program forward.

And obviously battled a back injury as a freshman, and has had an incredible career. When you sit back and look at the numbers, he's going to go down as one of the greatest Catamounts to ever play. He's just the nicest kid. Obviously we've seen some of the stuff recently that he's come forward with and dealt with in the last couple years. He's an inspiration to a lot of kids and a lot of people in general, and I give him a lot of credit for being that courageous and honest as he is about things. And so he's going to be really, really missed, really missed. And you don't replace guys like that. You just hope to find new guys with similar type of character traits, and we have a locker room full of guys that I think will step up and become leaders for his team next year and beyond.

Q. John, how close is that first half to the script you guys -- the way you wanted it to go?
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. I thought the whole game, for the most part, we knew we're going to need to make a lot of threes. We were 16 for 32. You can't do much better than that. We knew we had to rebound the ball and we did that. Even if you take the second half numbers, they out-rebounded us by six, which wasn't bad. It's the free-throw line both ways that hurt us. We put them there too much. We didn't convert on our opportunities well enough. Those are things that's probably where the rub was.

And so but we fought like hell. We had a chance right down to the end, and we played a full 40 minutes. And that's the thing, Kansas, Louisville, similar type things, we played well in all of these high major games. And like I've said for the last couple years. We played these games. There's not gimmicks, we're not expecting or needing a horrible game by our opponent, playing zone and doing stuff we don't need to do. We played Vermont basketball. We tried to go toe-to-toe with these teams, and right now they have a better athlete and in some cases some better players, but my job is continue to close that gap and see if we can, you know, take another step.

Q. John, you had kind of a unique situation with three brothers on this team. Can you just kind of, looking back now at the end of the year, kind of recap what that experience was like for you as a coach.
JOHN BECKER: Yeah. It was a really cool thing. And it wasn't a lot of work on my end. Those kids are great kids and they kind of -- Ernie, they managed each other very well and are very, very close and played a lot of basketball together. So a couple of times I had to break up an argument and send them to their room, so to speak, but for the most part, they were a joy to coach and really easy. But it really hit me after we won the championship on Saturday.

America East TV did an interview with them and you just saw the happiness and the love they had for one another, and it hit me at that point like, wow, how cool would this be to do this kind of thing with your brother. And I have two brothers, and it would be -- so for them, I think the last week has just been a dream, probably, for them, and I'm glad that we could help make that come true.

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