The look on Parker Fox's face said everything. After the springy Gophers senior slammed the offensive rebound over a New Orleans player's head Thursday, Williams Arena got louder than it had all season.
But the officials called off the dunk of the year candidate. It seemed like a travesty. The play still went viral overnight, energizing Fox's teammates in the 97-64 victory against the Privateers.
"That was crazy," Elijah Hawkins said of Fox, who came back from two season-ending knee injuries. "That should be on SportsCenter's Top Ten. I'm not going to lie."
The Gophers (5-2) needed one of those get-right performances after Sunday's 18-point loss against San Francisco, especially with early Big Ten play starting Sunday at Ohio State.
Here are four things learned from Thursday's bounce-back victory against New Orleans:
After hinting that he might change his starting lineup this season, Gophers coach Ben Johnson used the same starters for the sixth straight game. They trailed early again, but it was over once the bench brought a major boost.
The Gophers got 62 points off the bench Thursday, which started with Pharrel Payne's dunk after he checked in with just under 17 minutes left in the first half. That helped to spark a 9-0 run.
New Orleans had an upset on its mind, pulling within three points a few times early. Before his above-the-rim play was negated later in the game, Fox had two dunks in the first 10 minutes. Fox, Payne, Cam Christie and Mike Mitchell Jr. contributed off the bench during a 29-11 run in the first half.
And the Gophers didn't take their foot off the gas after halftime. Christie, Mitchell and Payne combined for 33 of the team's 40 second-half bench points. Christie had 11 of his team-high 20 points in the last 11:55. Mitchell finished with 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
After taking a 36-point lead with just under five minutes to play, the Gophers cleared their bench to get every player on the roster into the game. Even walk-ons got their first chance to play this season.
New Orleans entered Thursday ranking top 10 in the country at forcing 18 turnovers per game, the same number of turnovers the Gophers had in Sunday's loss in the Bay Area.
This was the ideal opportunity for the Gophers to show they could handle pressure.
Minnesota's point guard trio of Hawkins, Mitchell and Christie had 12 turnovers combined vs. San Francisco, but they had just four turnovers with 18 assists Thursday.
The Big Ten's leader at committing turnovers (nearly 15 per game) had only two turnovers in the first half, which helped the U take a 50-32 halftime lead. The Gophers finished with 27 assists and 12 turnovers, but several mistakes occurred once the game was out of reach.
The 27 assists were the most for the program since the Gophers had 32 assists vs. Omaha in 2020. Ball movement led to the highest field goal percentage (59.4%) in a game since 2018.
If the Gophers are going to make a jump in the Big Ten this season, they'll need to be carried by their frontcourt of Payne and Dawson Garcia, who were a formidable presence for the second straight game.
Payne and Garcia combined for 32 points and four blocks Thursday, with each playing just 17 minutes. They were the lone bright spot Sunday at San Francisco after combining for 34 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
Garcia's seven points were key during a 16-3 run in the first half to help the Gophers pull away against New Orleans. And in the second half, Payne had 10 points during a two-minute stretch to help stretch the U's lead to more than 30 points.
Thursday's blowout also allowed the Gophers to play reserve 6-11, 285-pound former Washington State offensive lineman Jack Wilson, who had played in only two games this year. Wilson heard cheers from the crowd after his first basket. He surely made use of his brief appearance with five points, five rebounds and four fouls in eight minutes. Wilson's size might come in handy in the Big Ten.
"It means a lot," said Wilson, who described his style of play like "a guy who played two years of football."
An unsung contributor in a few wins this season has been guard Braeden Carrington, who quietly has become one of the Big Ten's best perimeter defenders.
Carrington opened Thursday's game with a three-pointer, but his biggest impact came defensively. The 6-4 sophomore held New Orleans' Jordan Johnson to 17 points on 6-for-20 shooting from the field, including 0-for-6 from three-point range. Johnson, who led the nation in three-point accuracy last year, ranked fourth in scoring in Division I with 23 points per game.
Earlier this season, Carrington held Arkansas-Pine Bluff's Kylen Milton to just eight points on 2-for-7 shooting in an 86-67 win on Nov. 21. Milton was averaging nearly 24 points before playing the Gophers.