NORMAN — Sherri Coale pumped her fists when the team’s name appeared on the TV screen during the NCAA Tournament selection show. Not Oklahoma.
Notre Dame. The second-seeded Fighting Irish and third-seeded Sooners could meet in the regional semifinals in Kansas City, and while the coach’s excitement might have something to do with the future matchup, it was every bit as much about a past one. The Sooners played the Irish earlier this season in the Virgin Islands the day after Whitney Hand tore her ACL. The day that OU’s season really began. "The first game after you lose a kid to injury is always telling,” Coale said. "Sometimes, you play desperately and you play better than you actually are. Sometimes, you play panic-stricken, frozen, terrified of what comes next. Then occasionally, when your kids are made of something special, you play. "And we played.” It wasn’t easy. "It was a very emotional game,” Sooner captain Amanda Thompson said. "Whit, she was our heart out there.” Sooner point guard Danielle Robinson said, "Morale was low.” But ... "We actually played them pretty tough,” she said. The Sooners did it, in large part, with Robinson in serious foul trouble. She was on the bench with four fouls when the Irish went on a game-changing 20-0 run. The Sooners lost 81-71 but gained perspective for life without Hand, their top returning scorer. "It’s about toughness,” Robinson said. Coale said, "I felt like when we played that game I knew what our fiber was and that we could mold something pretty special out of it.