One of the drawbacks to a new, up-tempo style was Ben Johnson's Gophers men's basketball team turning into the Big Ten leader in turnovers early this season, which already contributed to two losses.
With early Big Ten play around the corner, Johnson needed to see his players build more confidence by playing fast and smart.
Against one of the nation's top teams at forcing turnovers, the Gophers bounced back from a bad loss by putting on a show for the home crowd. They didn't let many mistakes slow them down in Thursday's 97-64 victory against New Orleans at Williams Arena.
"I thought that set the tone," Johnson said. "That's who we are. I don't care who you play or who your opponent is. We're capable of doing that … That's what it's got to look like."
The Gophers (5-2) entered the game committing nearly 15 turnovers a game, but they had 14 assists and only two turnovers to take control in the first half. They finished with 27 assists and 12 turnovers – most of which came after playing with their reserves.
Pharrel Payne finished with 17 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Dawson Garcia had 11 of his 15 points in the first half. Cam Christie led five players in double figures with 20 points for the Gophers, who shot 59% from the field and got 62 bench points.
"It was really just keeping things simple," said Elijah Hawkins, who finished with nine assists and just one turnover. "Not trying to make the home-run play all the time."
Using a baseball analogy, Johnson wanted the Gophers to rely more on hitting singles. When they didn't try too hard to make big plays, the highlights piled up anyway with five dunks.
A sixth dunk was waved off with the Gophers leading by 29 points in the second half when Fox leaped over a New Orleans player near the charge circle to slam the ball.
"That was crazy," Hawkins said. "That should be on Sportscenter's top 10. I'm not going to lie."
New Orleans (3-4) got within three points early in the first half, but the Gophers used a 16-3 run to stretch their lead to 35-19 after Braeden Carrington's layup. They played with pace but only had one turnover through the first 14 ½ minutes.
In Sunday's 76-58 loss against San Francisco, the Gophers committed a season-high 18 turnovers while letting a one-point deficit in the second half get ugly late.
In the first three minutes of the second half Thursday, the Gophers had more turnovers than they had in the first 20 minutes, but it didn't take long for them to stop being careless.
It helped to play through Payne, who had 10 of his team's 11 points during a two-minute stretch. The Privateers went to hack-a-Payne to slow him down. But the 6-9, 255-pound sophomore still bullied them at the rim, including two three-point plays.
Christie's three around the 12-minute mark made it a 32-point lead and allowed the Gophers to clear their bench, most notably with fan-favorite Jack Wilson, a 6-11, 285-pound former offensive lineman at Washington State.
The Gophers, who play Sunday at Ohio State, believed in their fast-paced identity even when it didn't work this season, but Thursday provided a much-needed confidence boost.
"They need to be able to fall back on that when these games get tougher," Johnson said. "There was energy with the ball, but I think it trickled down with everybody."