For the first time in his tenure, Ben Johnson has a fully healthy roster at his disposal with the Gophers men's basketball team.
On an afternoon when a slow start seemed to be the effects of a tough loss to Missouri, the Gophers eventually found energy and strength in numbers.
With nine players getting double figures in minutes, the Gophers' depth was on display in Saturday's 67-43 victory over South Carolina Upstate at Williams Arena.
Dawson Garcia was the only Gophers player who scored in double figures with 14 points, but eight of the nine players who saw the floor scored at least five points on the day.
"I get it rhythm-wise it can be an adjustment," Johnson said. "But I think that is one of our strengths."
Here are four things learned from the Gophers' bounce-back victory:
Pharrel Payne and Parker Fox didn't have to put up monster numbers for their inside presence to make a difference Saturday off the bench.
The 6-9, 255-pound sophomore and 6-8 senior ignited the crowd with two dunks during a 15-5 rally after the Gophers trailed by five points early in the first half. They combined for eight points in a four-minute stretch that swayed the momentum.
Payne's thunderous dunk came on a pass from Fox, who finished with three assists. Payne seemed to jump even higher off the floor when recording a few of his career-high tying four blocks Saturday.
"I feel like my role is to bring a defensive presence," Payne said. "I feel like that's what I'm best at. If I'm able to get everybody together on the defensive side, I feel like we do well."
Garcia finishes strong
Nothing seemed to be going right offensively for Garcia in the second half when he missed his fourth straight shot within point-blank range.
USC Upstate cut a double-digit deficit in half with less than five minutes to play. Two days earlier, the Gophers blew a 20-point lead going scoreless from the field in the last six minutes in a loss against Missouri.
Trae Broadnax's layup shrunk the Gophers lead to 61-53 with 2:16 remaining, but the Spartans wouldn't get any closer.
Six of Garcia's team-high 14 points came in the last two minutes, including a three-pointer with 21 seconds left. He led the Gophers in scoring for the fourth straight game.
The Gophers could have blamed Thursday's loss to Missouri on a lengthy scoring drought, but Johnson saw the disappointing loss differently. He challenged his team to play better defensively.
Justin Bailey had 11 points for South Carolina Upstate at halftime, but he was held to three points on 1-for-6 shooting in the second half Saturday. The Spartans also shot just 29% from the field and 2-for-12 from three-point range in the second half.
The Gophers lead was 57-52 after Miguel Ayesa's three-pointer for USC Upstate, but they held their opponent scoreless from the field and outscored them 10-1 in the last 4:38.
Taking care of the ball
USC Upstate led the Big South averaging 11 steals and 18 turnovers forced per game. The Spartans also proved they could do it against Power Five opponents with a combined 19 steals and 30 turnovers forced in losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Johnson's team couldn't afford to be careless with the ball coming off a 16-turnover game against Missouri. The Gophers averaged a Big Ten worst 14.7 turnovers entering Saturday, but they only committed three of their 11 turnovers in the second half.
A big reason for the Gophers taking better care of the ball was the play of their point guards.
Elijah Hawkins leads the Big Ten in turnovers (3.7), but he was trusted with the ball down the stretch. Hawkins, who had a team-high five assists, committed just one turnover in the second half. Mike Mitchell Jr. had all of his nine points and zero turnovers playing 18 minutes in the second half.