Yet none of her players ever picked up a fifth and final foul, and her Sooners edged past Oklahoma State 82-77 on Saturday for their seventh straight win in the Bedlam rivalry.
Aaryn Ellenberg scored 23 points in her Bedlam debut and Danielle Robinson added 20 points and seven assists as Oklahoma (16-4, 6-1 Big 12) won for the 24th time in the last 25 meetings.
"I just think their experience was the difference down the stretch," Cowgirls coach Kurt Budke said. "I really felt like in a tie ballgame or a one-possession ballgame, big advantage to them.
"I thought if we were going to win this, we needed to be up a couple possessions in the last couple minutes to finish it off because they have been there, done that and we're still learning how to do it."
Coale stuck with four starters with Final Four experience who had four fouls apiece, and each one rewarded her with smart play down the stretch. She didn't realize quite how dire the situation was until she glanced up at the scoreboard and saw four players with a red "4" in the fouls column, while Ellenberg had three.
So she decided not to address each player individually and went with a team approach: "'So what? We've all got four. Everybody's got to be aggressive. Everybody's got to go make a play. You can't worry about being safe. You can't worry about fouling.'"
"I just think there was a sense of urgency. I don't think it had anything to do with me," Coale said. "I think they just decided, `We've got to get a stop to win this game.'"
Budke put 6-foot-6 freshman Vicky McIntyre, who led Oklahoma State (13-6, 1-5) with 16 points, on the bench with four fouls with 9:33 to play and she stayed there for more than 8 minutes before returning to miss her only shot.
"She just doesn't block shots, but she changes shots, and her presence in there is pretty important when you've got a point guard flying around like they do," Budke said. "So, yeah, it did hurt us."
Ellenberg put the Sooners ahead to stay with a jumper from the right elbow with 5:11 to play, Robinson followed with a left-handed basket in the lane to make it 76-72 and Oklahoma held on with free throws the rest of the way.
Robinson was 10-for-10 at the line in the second half, hitting a pair with 41.6 seconds left to make it 80-75 and then another pair after Tiffany Bias had pulled Oklahoma State back within three.
"I think the little things killed us in the end," Bias said. "I think our intensity the whole game kept up with them. It's just that last little bit, we lost it."
The Cowgirls scored 19 points more than they had in any other conference game so far this season but couldn't keep up its torrid 3-point shooting down the stretch. Ranked last in the Big 12 at 28 percent on the season, Oklahoma State started out 7-for-13 from 3-point range before finishing 0-for-4.
Oklahoma went 12-for-24 and then turned Whitney Hand's airball in a one-point game into a positive. Ellenberg grabbed the rebound with 1:57 to play and was fouled, hitting her first free throw to make it 77-75 before missing the second.
McFarland came away with that miss, and also went 1-for-2 at the line. Precious Robinson and McIntyre missed at the other end for Oklahoma State before Danielle Robinson's first set of free throws pushed Oklahoma's lead to five in the final minute.
The Sooners' only loss in the series since 1999 came at Gallagher-Iba Arena in 2008 -- when this year's seniors were freshmen.
"I've enjoyed my time here, except for my freshman year. The first time, I didn't enjoy that one at all," Danielle Robinson said. "But it's a great rivalry, and we always look forward to it.
"Give credit to Oklahoma State. It's always a battle when we come up here."