The sounds of hands slapping the court rang like thunder through the arena.
Oklahoma was going on defense, and they were reminding themselves to get low.
It's something hundreds of basketball teams do. Touching the court to prepare on defense is probably as old as peanut butter pairing nicely with jelly. But the old action is giving the Sooners a new defense.
The words bellow out of one of the five mouths of Oklahoma's starters. Any one of them might say it. Sometimes, they say it in unison. Then comes the thunder of flesh to floor.
In Oklahoma's 13 games so far, the one word Sooners coach Lon Kruger has preached more than the rest is “physicality”. Amath M'Baye said there's just something about the motion of bending his knees and slamming the floor with his palms that reminds him he needs to get down, defend his man and stay physical.
In those 13 games, OU's “Touch, Red!” has led it to an increased defense. The Sooners push back when they're pushed — which they showed when they beat Sweet 16 team Ohio at the end of December.
Then on Saturday, they outrebounded West Virginia, snagging 27 defensive rebounds and 40 total, to open the conference season.
The Sooners needed to get better defensively. Senior forward Romero Osby knew in November his team would be in trouble come Big 12 season if they didn't start to become more aggressive. The loss to Gonzaga told him so. Then the loss to Arkansas, in which Oklahoma continued to be fouled hard with little retaliation, confirmed any remaining suspicions Osby had.
There remained doubt, too, that Oklahoma's first victory against West Virginia — which came in the Old Spice Classic at the end of November — was just a lucky win from a team that decided to be aggressive after being beat soundly in the previous game.
Then the Sooners beat the Mountaineers on the road to move themselves to No. 2 in the conference standings.
Two days before leaving for Morgantown, W. Va., the thunder of hands and the shouts of five starters rang through the practice gym at Lloyd Noble Center.
Left up to M'Baye and Osby, that ringing — and the physicality that comes with it — will remain for the rest of conference season.