Jason Kapono Q&A - March 19, 2002
By Brian Gianelli
FOXSports.com: Some people mentioned that your game against Cincinnati in the Sweet 16 (105-10 Double OT win for UCLA) is one of those 'instant classics.' Could you sense how special the game was while it was going on?
Jason Kapono: Not really during the game. But afterwards, it sunk in what kind of game we played. It was crazy, and it showed what kind of grit we have, that fight. That was a big steppingstone for us, as most people feel that we haven't shown that poise throughout the season (fighting back from 12 down, etc.) So that was a big step for us, obviously if we had lost that game we would have been done and wait until next fall to start playing again. It's good to get that quality win, and now we're back in the Sweet 16 with a chance to win on Thursday and advance past the Sweet 16, which we haven't done since I've been here.
FOXSports.com: What did the coaches tell you at halftime? You were getting killed on the offensive glass, but were only down 10?
Kapono: They just wanted us to clean up on the boards. Cincinnati was plus-6 and were getting a lot of crash-tip dunks, so even though they weren't shooting the ball that well, they were getting a lot of tips and second-chances. The coaches knew that even though we were down 10, we weren't really playing that well. On a scale of one to ten, we were probably playing a four. We were still in the game just being down ten, so we had to come out and just keep fighting. Me and Matt (Barnes) really didn't play that much in the first half because of foul trouble, so Dan (Gadzuric) really had to carry us throughout that first half. Then finally the team pulled it all in, and we started to play great as a group. That's what ended up getting us the win.
FOXSports.com: How does it feel to be back in the Sweet 16 after all the criticism and media attention this team has had to endure during this season so far?
Kapono: It feels great, but we're not done yet. We cant' be satisfied with just reaching the Sweet 16. I think that's how we felt the last two years -- we were just glad to be in the Sweet 16 and then we'd lose. Obviously we played some good teams, but we have to still have that fire, so we can fight and get try to get past the round of 16. We knew that we could do it, that we had the talent level. It was just a matter of finding that right mixture, and I think we found it and we have a pretty good groove going right now. Hopefully we can continue to have that vs. the Tigers.
FOXSports.com: Breakdown what you know of Missouri, and what you expect from the match-up vs.the Tigers.
Kapono: I'm sure everyone who was filling out their brackets had no clue that it would be Missouri vs. UCLA (#12 seed vs. #8 seed)! They're pretty much a team like us -- very talented with a lot of scoring threats. They have a lot of great skill players, they just haven't played their best throughout the year. They have a great wing players in Kareem Rush, Paulding, Kroenke and Stokes. Then they have some quality post players in Johnson and Bryant. They're going to be a tough team to play, I think it will be a very high-scoring game as both teams tend to thrive in that kind of style. It should be a fun game to play in, and I look forward to playing in it on Thursday night.
FOXSports.com: Do you think it'll be a great advantage for you guys playing up in San Jose (sight of West Regional semis and final)?
Kapono: I don't know. It's obviously going to help with the crowd, all the cheering and stuff. But it could also be a problem as there are going to be a lot of friends and family there, so that could cause us some problems. Our mindset should be on the game and not on all our friends and parents and what not. If we can get past this first game, then I think we'll feel pretty good about ourselves and hopefully keep it going.
Kapono: I think Ced will be ready to go. He practiced today 100 percent, he looked real good. I feel bad for Rico -- it seems that every year he is healthy and ready to play and somehow he has this curse in that he always gets hurt. I guess he's going to go through treatment, and if we can get past this weekend and advance to the Final Four, he's got a chance to come back. So hopefully we can take care of that for him, and we look forward to him coming back.