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March 21, 2014

Jakob Gollon

Langston Hall

Bob Hoffman

Bud Thomas

Anthony White


Mercer – 78
Duke – 71

MODERATOR:  We're ready to begin the Mercer portion of the press conference.  At this time, coach hof Mapp, could you give us an opening statement, please?
COACH HOFFMAN:  I'm be glad to.  I'm fired up about being able to do that.  Our guys continue to believe at such a high level in each other and their own skill set.  Just fun to watch them develop into the team that they've become oaf all these years.  I mean, that makes now we're 7‑1 in postseason.  They've had a lot of experience.  When I've worked as hard as they have for 365 days, when we got beat on our own floor last year, I've said it and I'll say it again, I don't think there's anybody in the country worked harder than these guys.
They were determined to get to that championship at Florida Gulf Coast and win that game, and when they won that game, they continue to work every day to get better in the two weeks we had to prepare for this game, and it was just a blessing to get to see these guys work the way they did together.  Man, what an amazing accomplishment they were able to get done today.
MODERATOR:  At this time, we will open the floor for questions for the student‑athletes.  Once again, questions for student‑athletes only right now.  Are there any questions?

Q.  For any of the players, what were you able to do when you went down five and then managed to get, I think, an 11‑0 run to answer that back and not fold under the pressure, what was it about either knowing each other so well or whatever that made you able to do that?
JAKOB GOLLON:  We're a very veteran team.  We've been saying it all week, every time everybody's asking us about that kind of stuff.  We've got a lot of seniors and a lot of high character seniors.  When it gets to have out there, when it gets loud to call plays and stuff, a lot of guys stay focused, keep everyone calm and stay collected in those heated moments.

Q.  Is there a moment when you're on the court in those closing seconds where it feels surreal?  I mean, I know you guys probably expected to win, but not many other people did.  What was that feeling like as the seconds went down there?
LANGSTON HALL:  Well, it was a back and forth game the whole time, really.  And I think with about ten seconds to go when Jake was on the free‑throw line, we were up six or eight, that was when it hit, like man we're about to beat Duke.
Everybody was smiling, but it's like we have to get the last ten seconds.  It's definitely a surreal feeling, man.  This is what March Madness is about, really.

Q.  Talk about what you thought when you saw the pairings announced and saw you were playing Duke.
ANTHONY WHITE:  I talked to my dad like right after, and he pretty much just said we've been working hard all year, same thing Coach has been saying.  He said with all the seniors, we should be able to go in there and be poised, and he's just saying that he had no doubt that we were going to win.
And then as we talked to the parents, as we were talking to the parents after, they were all saying the exact same thing.  They said as long as we play right, play together, we can go out here beat Duke and that's exactly what we did.

Q.  You're from pretty far away.  When you decided to go to Mercer, what did people say about Mercer?  Did they know anything about Mercer?
BUD THOMAS:  No, they did not know anything.  I didn't know much either, but the coaches started recruiting me, and part of the reason that I had chosen to come to Mercer was that I could try and go out and make a name for us for back home.  So when people hear Mercer, they think of me and what I've been able to do for this program and what I've been able to bring to it, and it's been be an absolute blessing with these coaches and players.  I couldn't ask asked for anything better.

Q.  For Jakob, two things.  You had a lot of free throws in the end.  How did you stay calm?  Obviously, other players, that's a tough, tough moment to be calm.  Also, can you talk about your defensive Parker today?
JAKOB GOLLON:  With the free throws, we do this thing in practice.  If you don't know, I'm a sixth year guy, my body's kind of banged up.  If you miss free throws, you have to run.  In practice, when you miss a free throw, you don't want to run down and back.  You learn to make them under pressure.
This game is like any other game with a lot of fans.  We played several overtime games this year.  You have to hit free throws to win.  We have a pretty good free‑throw shooting team overall.  Not just me, Langston and Anthony hit free throws down the stretch too.  In that case, you've got to rely on all the practice you've put in.
Secondly, on Parker, I would love to take credit for that, but he's a phenomenal player, and we had all these different schemes that we worked on to throw different stuff at them and try to stop him, and that was not one of them that was just me solely guarding him alone.  I can't take any of that credit.  All these guys here and the rest in the locker room did a phenomenal job of trying to get in gaps and not give them anything easy.

Q.  Talking about the schemes to stop Parker.  You held Duke to points in the paint.  Was that the main focus in the game, let them live or die by the three‑pointer?
LANGSTON HALL:  Before the game, we wanted to keep them to under six made threes.  That didn't happen at all.  But we just kept trying to contest the threes.  They ended up hitting 15, when was a good amount, but then we stopped a lot of the drives and made them kick it out.  So that's usually the defense we play.  So ended up working out.

Q.  For Anthony, your coach brought up Florida Gulf Coast.  Seeing what they did last year in this tournament, how did that motivate you all season?  How did it motivate you this week coming into this tournament?  Just take me through what this year has been like for you since that.
ANTHONY WHITE:  When they were going on the run, we made it to the NIT  We were sitting at home.  We were thinking that could be us.  That's something we kept in our heads throughout the whole season, starting in the summer.  Just trying to work hard, work on our games preseason, even during the season, guys getting in the gym, getting extra shots up.
And when it came to the point where we had to go to Gulf Coast and beat them at their place, like they did us, we really, I think everybody bought into the idea of we have to go do it since they did it to us.  But now that we're here, we try not to worry about what they did last year.  We've got to worry about us and make sure we do what we need to do to get wins.

Q.  Any of the players, you knew they were going to make some runs, and you're all seniors.  You all have to take over leadership.  Was there a point you thought you had to talk to each other to calm down and get back into a groove?
MODERATOR:  Bud, could you answer that, please?
BUD THOMAS:  Part of the advantage of being seniors is we've been through a whole lot.  Two years ago at Utah State was probably, I think we'd agree, was the loudest we heard the gym.  They went up six with three minutes.  We came back and finished that.  We've played in every arena against pretty much every team you can imagine, and we all know how each other's feeling on the court.  We're always encouraging each other and we're always supportive.  Our coaches are always in our ear telling us next play if we're struggling, anything like that, so we're a very positive team and always looking forward to the next play and optimistic about the rest of the game.
MODERATOR:  Any other questions for the student‑athletes?  Gentlemen, thank you very much, you're excused.  Congratulations.
At this time, we'll open the floor for Coach Hoffman.

Q.  How much did experience and poise down the stretch make the difference in this game?
COACH HOFFMAN:  I think it was a huge element in us getting the victory against a talented team.  Our guys believed they could win, which is also another major thing that transpired today.  You can conquer anything if you have the belief they do in each other and their skill set.  That's what I said earlier.
There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to be there and have an opportunity.  I didn't know if we'd be able to finish the game.  Everybody was calling us underdogs.  I told them before we ran out, let's be super dogs.  Everybody else thinks we're underdogs.  Let's go get it.  You guys have lived all these moments.
Those guys don't have the experience, and they've not played on the road like you have in tough environments like you guys have, and you can get it done.  And they bought into each other like they have all year and for many years, and it was just fun to watch them enjoy those moments together.

Q.  Coach, if my math correct, not‑‑ it isn't always.
COACH HOFFMAN:  Mine either.

Q.  Inside the arc, you were 20 for 32 for 62.5 percent.  You limited Duke to seven baskets throughout the game out of 25 attempts, 28 percent.  How did you take the inside away from them?
COACH HOFFMAN:  Well, we knew they were amazing at driving the ball, especially Parker.  That's what he wanted to do.  We were trying to run at him early.  First half, we ran at him.  That's when they hit all those threes.  No matter when he bounced it, we were going to trap him wherever it was, closest guy.
And then we're going to try to recover.  And we recovered a little bit, but they were hitting shots, but I thought what happened between that and the zone and through just mixing it a little bit, that at least made them stop and pause and think instead of just going at us like they can, because they're so good.
And I thought that gave us the ability to get a few of those possessions and get some stops, and they hit all those threes.  And those guys are right, we were trying to get back to them, but they moved the ball so well.  When we're rotating out of those traps, we were there, but they hit the shots.  And we went over and over the last two days that we weren't going to fly at them because then that led back to them trying to get the lay‑ups.  We're going to just try to live and die.  Not that we're going to give up threes.
I told the guys, if they hit the three, shake their hand, we'll put the uniforms up, try it again next year.  They hit all those threes, and that's all you can do.  What I continue to tell them is believe in each other and make sure you're in the gap, stay together, and I think that's really what we were able to do.
But we tried to run at him and get him out, whether he was in the post or in the perimeter, which is kind of unusual, but that's what we thought we needed to do because we didn't think we could guard him one on one.

Q.  A lot of people like to disparage the other tournaments.  You played in two of them and won one of them.  How much do those experiences make you the team you are today?
COACH HOFFMAN:  We were fortunate to get in those tournaments.  Two years ago, we got in the CIT, and it was a blessing to get in and then our guys started having fun.  We won a couple home games, and we won three on the road, traveling across the country, and that led to the beginning of where we are today.
The NIT win at Tennessee, you know, Tennessee's a good team.  They're playing right now.  I'd like to be watching them, but I'm in here with you guys.  But they were a really good team, but we matched everything they had, and I think those experiences put us in the position to have a chance to win today.
MODERATOR:  Coach, thank you very much.  Again, congratulations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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