By JOHN SHINN
Playing major college basketball means a lot of games in cavernous arenas. Some are packed to the rafters with thousands of fans. Others are not.
Oklahoma’s final exhibition game, however, is going to have a very intimate feel.
The Sooners will face Central Oklahoma at 7 tonight at McCasland Field House. The venue, which was the home of OU basketball from 1928-75, will provide a different vibe than Lloyd Noble Center.
“This is gonna be a great environment,” OU forward Romero Osby said. “I know we have a lot alumni coming back to watch this game. I think it’s gonna be cool; it’s gonna be fun.”
For one, instead of playing the final exhibition game with at least half the seats empty at Lloyd Noble Center, the Sooners are hoping McCasland Field House — which seats 5,000 — will be packed to the gills.
OU coach Lon Kruger remembers what a raucous environment the old gym could provide. He played there twice for Kansas State as a player in the 1970s.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Kruger said. “It was small arena where everything was right on top of you. A lot of arenas were cozy like that back then — just not for the opposing team.”
Venues like that are rare nowadays. They’ve long been replaced by much bigger facilities, leaving some of the attachment fans once enjoyed when watching games behind. There’s an energy in the old cramped venues that’s hard to duplicate.
“The bleachers are all around, and fans are right on top of you,” guard Steven Pledger said. “It’s going to be fun.”
What the Sooners need it to be is helpful. They topped Washburn, 83-66, in their exhibition opener last Saturday, but they need to build on that performance.
It will be the final tune-up game before the Sooners open the season Sunday at Lloyd Noble Center against Louisiana-Monroe.
“We need to take a step from the second exhibition game,” Kruger said. “I thought we took a big step from the first scrimmage to the second. I thought we made a big step going into the first exhibition game. We need to keep transferring what we’re doing in practice onto the floor.”
Also, soak in the environment. Tonight’s game is the first of two OU will play at McCasland Field House. Tonight’s game won’t go in the record book. It’s game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 31 will.