St. John's and Oklahoma will be stepping out on the hardwood of the Lloyd Noble Center tonight to fight for a chance to "survive and advance" to the Sweet Sixteen, in the words of Red Storm head coach Kim Barnes Arico.
She thinks that her team played tight in Sunday's narrow win over Creighton. After the game, she addressed the mentality of her squad and how she expected the team to recoup from their first-round squeaker.
"It's just one game, and that's something that we always stress to them all the time. We may have squeaked out of this one, but let's focus on the next one, let's just prepare for the next one. Obviously we have a quick turnaround. We're going to try to get better at some of the things that we weren't good at tonight and play a little bit better than we did tonight.
"I just want them to stay positive. I feel like this is the first time our kids have really ever been in this position. We've never been a three seed. And the look on their face before the game was that of pressure. They felt the pressure and they came out and they played a little bit tight. And maybe this kind of gets the monkey off their back a little bit and now they're relaxed and play a little bit more confident. We've never been a high seed so that's kind of been a different outlook for us, but I think it should give them confidence moving forward."
At that point in the night, it was not known who the Red Storm would be facing, but the late game proved to be one for the home team, as Oklahoma ran away from Michigan due in no small part to the athletic and balanced play of their combo of guards. OU head coach Sherri Coale talked about the athleticism the Sooners will face in their tussle with the Red Storm.
"(St. John's is) very athletic. I'm really impressed with their point guard. She makes a lot of stuff happen for them. They're battle tested coming out of the Big East. I don't think that they'll be particularly affected by the folks we have here, but all of our fans need to bring two more friends just in case and see if we can't affect them a little bit.
"Of course, they made the national news for knocking off Connecticut at home so they've been in tough environments before. They're very very athletic and that's what we have to worry about is how to contain their athleticism and we've got to continue to have the balance that we had tonight."
If every Sooner fan brought their two friends as Coale suggested the arena would be packed, as 5,090 people were in the house on Sunday. The home court advantage will be something to watch to see if the higher-seeded Red Storm can overcome to crowd and themselves to advance to play in Fresno this weekend. Tip time for the Sooners and Red Storm is tonight at 8:45 CT on ESPN2/ESPN3.