Nothing has come easy for the Sooners, it seems, including their 78-73 win over pesky Central Michigan in Saturday's first-round game.
But the experience of so many close calls has helped meld and mold the team.
“We've had our backs squarely against the wall repeatedly throughout the course of the season, and we've learned how to fight our way out. At that time, we were just trying to figure out who we were,” Coale said. “We did fight back in that game and we made a run at the end and it was close and made some big shots and made some big plays.
“It was like (we were saying), `Hey, I didn't know I could do that.' Now we do. We've done that over and over and over. Now it's a part of who we are, a part of our character as a team.”
The details of the first meeting could be revealing. The Bruins pulled away early in the second half to build an 18-point lead, then hung on at the finish. UCLA dominated the Sooners inside, scoring 46 points in the paint. Much of that damage was done on putbacks, with 23 points coming off a staggering 24 offensive rebounds.
“We got whipped on every single offensive board that they got,” Oklahoma guard Morgan Hook said. “Everyone knows how to rebound; it's just a want-to. That's what we need to have in our mind, is we have to want the ball more than they do.”