Vermont Coach John Becker – “A great win today and credit to College of Charleston. A really good program, two programs that have been to the [NCAA] tournament a bunch recently and are picked to win their leagues this year. They’ve played a really hard schedule, their first three games have been against all tournament level teams. They experience what we’ve experienced a lot where every game is a big game for the other team. I thought it was a really good matchup. They were coming off a loss, we had a couple of wins and so they clearly emphasized the defensive side of the ball after giving up close to 60 I think against Duquesne in the second half. I thought they were really good defensively. Their switching bothered us in the first half. We struggled to score and we really struggled to score the whole game, but we found something at the end there and were able to just kind of chop away at it. I thought ‘Mattie’ [Forward Matt Veretto] was great all night. [Guard] Shamir Bagues was great all night and we just struggled to score. I thought [Forward] Illeri [Ayo-Faleye] made a couple of huge plays for us, the offensive rebound on the missed free throw, and-1. Then [Guard] TJ Hurley, who’s a really good young player for us that has not been shooting it well so far this season, made a huge shot. We were able to push the lead out and get some stops and make enough free throws. They only made three three-pointers, we did a good job protecting the three-point line and we were able to eventually make a bunch of threes and Illeri’s three also was a big shot. I thought he had a nice little spurt there. I almost took him out to put [Guard] Aaron Deloney back in to get more offense and then he started to make some plays. On the other end I thought Illeri made a couple huge blocks and kind of controlled the paint there late. It was a really gutty, gutty win. We have a lot of new players in our program a lot like Charleston and a lot of those guys grew up a lot today. I thought coming down here in this tournament with all these really good teams, we’re going to find out a lot about ourselves, especially with so many new guys. I thought we found out a lot about ourselves today which is exactly, as a coach, what we want to do this time of year. Like Charleston, we play a really, really challenging non-conference schedule and it’s games like this that are going to help us come league play and come March. I have a lot of respect for what Pat [Kelsey] does at College of Charleston, and it’s unfortunate one team had to lose tonight, but I thought both teams were pretty tough and gritty. We were really fortunate to come out with a win.” (On what they did differently down the stretch) “I was just trying to get the guys to stay committed to the defensive end of the ball and just keep fighting. They’re a really good rebounding team and they got a couple clean looks, a couple of the misses were fortunate, they missed some clean shots. We just kept really trying to guard and I thought Illeri made a couple really good defensive plays. [Charleston Forward Ante] Brzovic, I thought they started to go to him down the stretch, and he was a tough cover, so we were going to start doubling him, but they kind of never got back to him and so that was fortunate. I was worried about doing that and opening up the three-point line when we’re doubling the post but we never actually got to that. Illeri got a couple of blocks. We just got enough stops. In games like that, in a program like ours, I think we probably just had a little bit more sense of urgency down the end. There was just a little bit more effort, a little bit more toughness and then when we made a few shots, that gave our defense even more energy. We had a great turnout down here and you could feel our crowd and we just caught a wave of momentum late when we needed it and you could see they were a little bit deflated on their side because they couldn’t get any shots to go, we started making shots. That’s College Basketball. That’s sports, that’s what makes it great. We just caught a wave of momentum and adrenaline late which I think helped carry us to the finish line.”
(On if they changed anything at halftime) “Not really. I thought the first half, defensively, the big thing we talked about is they were getting into the lane and really pivoting, getting us in the air and able to kind of clear us away and make uncontested shots. We really talked about keeping our feet moving, staying between them and not standing straight up when they got to pivots and counterst. I thought we did a much better job with individual defense in the second half. Offensively, they were switching everything and they were gapped up and they’re big and long and athletic, so we just couldn’t get anywhere. We kind of wanted to cut out the next guy over from the ball when we got the mismatch and create double gaps, so we could at least get into some drive and kick, which I think we did a better job of. But, overall I just didn’t think we were matching their force offensively. We started to do that better, we got into the bonus really quickly. They’re a hyper aggressive team defensively. We shot it pretty well from the line but we got to the line early, which helped when we couldn’t make a shot to at least manufacture some points. It was just our individual defense. We did a better job of staying down in between them and the basket and then offensively we just played with more force, and then late we were able to make a couple shots.”
Vermont Forward Matt Veretto – (On how the team felt trailing late in the game
“You got to keep reinforcing that you got to chip away. That’s kind of the heart of the program, the culture is we’re a blue collar team. We want to make sure we’re out-toughing the other team. “That’s the thing, keep getting defensive stops, keep getting rebounds and we’re going to slowly come back into the game. Then once Illeri [Ayo-Faleye] and TJ Hurley made a few plays, that kind of got us rolling and gave us confidence again offensively. But it all started on the defensive end. Illeri making plays, getting a rebound, getting an and-1. Those types of plays get us more confident. When you’re down double digits with seven minutes or four minutes left, it’s a little deflating, but you have to keep confidence and stick together and I think the group handled the adversity really well.”
College of Charleston Coach Pat Kelsey – “Give a lot of credit to coach [John Baker] and to Vermont. It’s a really good program, it’s been a championship program for a long, long time. They’re always competing to play in the National Tournament from the America East every single year. I’ve enjoyed watching their team play here over the last several days as we’ve scouted. They made winning plays at winning time. Winning time is what we call the last eight minutes of the game and they stepped up and made the plays necessary to win a game. Unfortunately, we did not today and that’s something we have to fix and we’ve got to fix quickly because we play again in about 24 hours. Again, credit Vermont. I thought our guys played really well, and really hard and executed our system on the offensive end, for the majority of the game. Unfortunately, in the last eight minutes we weren’t at our best and ultimately that’s on me as a coach. We’re going to go back to work, get guys better and come out tomorrow with another opportunity to compete and we’re excited about that.” (On how the team lost the lead in the second half) “There are a lot of things that go through your mind. I could kind of go through the progression of various things that happened in that last eight or nine minutes that can’t happen if you’re going to close out games against really, really good teams. There could be eight or nine different ones, whether it’s offensive execution, whether it’s defensive assignments. The one that comes to mind to be honest with you more than anything is the free throw blockout where number 0 [Vermont Forward Illeri Ayo-Faleye] got the offensive rebound off of a free throw and then finished the play and got and-1. If you look up, Winning Basketball 101, there’s probably a book out there author authored by Jimmy Naismith or Dean Smith or Mike Krzyzewski or John Wooden, or you name it and you open it up to page one – after they do the little whatever you call it the salutation or a little devotion of the book to the wife or whatever – page one sentence one is don’t give up freaking offensive rebounds on free throws late in the game. There are eight or nine other winning-time things that we didn’t do, that we need to do. Again, ultimately that’s on me, I’m the coach. I always own that I never ever, ever blame the kids. That’s on me. We harp on it, we preach it, but obviously, I don’t think I’ve harped on it and preached on it enough. Literally page one of Winning Basketball Late in Games, is to not give up offensive rebounds on free throws. At least that’s how I visualize it in my mind right now. Tons of other things, little things, whether it’s not executing out of a timeout, whether it’s them just them making big plays. Give them credit. Those cats made big shots and big plays at winning-time when it mattered the most. You know what you do? You tip your cap to them. They got us. Duquesne was similar. At that crucial moment in the game, in winning time, we didn’t make the necessary plays to win and we got to fix that.” (On the team struggling to make threes).