NORMAN — The last time an Oklahoma coach called out Sooner fans, the crimson-and-cream faithful gave a raucous response. Just ask Texas Tech’s football team.
Like Bob Stoops did two seasons ago before a huge game against the Red Raiders, Sherri Coale has called out Sooner fans. She expressed frustration about the crowd size after OU’s opener in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at Lloyd Noble Center. Even though the attendance of 5,368 was the third-largest crowd for first-round games in the tournament this year, it was the Sooners’ smallest home crowd of the season. "For us ... we’re so accustomed to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 that 5,000 just seemed empty,” she said. "The 5,000 that were here were unbelievable. I watched the TV copy of the game when I got home. The sound, the energy they gave, the way that came across on television, everything about it was fantastic.” She smiled. "But we’re just not satisfied.” Will the Sooner Nation flock to the Lloyd Noble Center for tonight’s second-round game against Arkansas-Little Rock? "We need them to come out,” Sooner center Abi Olajuwon said. "It’s not a want. It’s a necessity. We feed off that support. Sometimes, you don’t feel like you can go another step, and you hear that crowd and you’re like, ‘Whoa, I guess I do have some energy.’” And against UALR, a packed arena could make an even bigger difference for the third-seeded Sooners. The 11th-seeded Trojans are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Asked to name the most hostile road environment that they’ve faced this season, UALR guard Shanika Butler pointed to the season opener at Oklahoma State. "That was a big crowd,” she said. "That was a different kind of environment than we faced all year.” The attendance: 2,336. The biggest crowd that the Trojans played in front of this season was 4,114 at home against Middle Tennessee State. Coale knows the Lloyd Noble Center crowd can disrupt visitors’ focus.