E.J. Stephens was the second scoring option as Lafayette's starting shooting guard last season, but he found himself further down the pecking order in the Gophers season opening 71-56 win against Missouri Kansas City.

The game started off with fellow transfers Payton Willis and Jamison Battle leading the way, but Stephens and others all found ways to contribute to the first victory for new Gophers coach Ben Johnson.

Battle had a team-high 18 points, but Stephens and Willis tied for the next highest scorers with 13 points apiece Tuesday night. Six of the seven players who scored had at least seven points.

There might be times in past seasons when the Gophers would go as far as All-Big Ten guard Marcus Carr or one star player would take them, but more balance was evident in the first game together for 10 newcomers.

"It's brotherhood," Stephens said. "Everybody out there genuinely likes everybody. It's a great group of guys. We all have the same mindset. We want to win. We all came here for a reason."

The Gophers, who open the Asheville Championship Friday in North Carolina, will have that chemistry and balanced scoring tested in their next game against Western Kentucky.

Here are four other observations from the Gophers opening win against UMKC:

Battle and Willis show

It would be a knee-jerk reaction to call Willis and Battle the go-to players for the Gophers after just two games, including an exhibition game that doesn't count. But the pair have already showed early signs of thriving in that primary scoring role.

After they combined for 47 points in the exhibition victory against Concordia-St. Paul, Battle and Willis rose to the occasion again with a combined 31 points in Tuesday's opening win against UMKC. Willis set the tone from the outset with eight of the team's first 10 points. And he assisted on the other basket hitting Stephens cutting to the rim.

Battle and Willis combined for 13 of the Gophers' first 15 points in the game and 16 first-half points to carry them to a 33-25 halftime lead. Stephens had eight points in the second half but Battle still led the way with 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting in the last period.

Experience matters

How many times have the Gophers found ways to lose games in the final minutes when too much was on one players' shoulder? Too many to count. It's just one game, but Tuesday was an example of how many experienced players Johnson and his staff can rely on down the stretch.

Curry is a sixth-year senior. Willis is a fifth-year senior. Stephens is a fifth-year senior. So is Luke Loewe, Sean Sutherlin, and Charlie Daniels. They're all "super seniors," meaning the NCAA's COVID-19 rules gave them an extra year. And it showed in the clutch.

Whether it was making big shots, free throws, or even defensive plays all of it contributed to the Gophers stretching a two-point lead to a 15-point win after finishing the game on a 17-4 run.

Lacking post presence

There's a problem the Gophers have that only the transfer portal could've fixed. And it's too late now to add any more help in the frontcourt. Curry, Daniels, and Battle did their best to slow down UMKC's all-league big man Josiah Allick, but he still finished with 21 points on 7-for-10 shooting on Tuesday.

Allick is only 6-8 and 240 pounds, but he represents the smaller version of what the Gophers will face moving forward, especially in Big Ten play. They might be outmatched inside in most games this season, including on Friday against Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers eked out a 79-74 win against Alabama State on Tuesday, but they got a combined 39 points, 15 rebounds, and two blocks from their front court. Oh yeah, and they have a 7-5 center coming off the bench.

Freshmen not ready?

When will freshmen Treyton Thompson and Abdoulaye Thiam be ready to play? Johnson hopes sooner than later after they made huge strides over the summer and fall. They didn't see the court in Tuesday's opening win, but the Gophers will likely need them for depth purposes down the road.

Thompson, at 6-11, is by far the Gophers' tallest player and a potential rim protector. Thiam also is arguably the team's fastest and most athletic guard. Sophomore walk-on Will Ramberg played nearly four minutes in the second half because of his understanding of the plays as an undersized power forward.

"They're young," Johnson said. "They're going to get their opportunity, but I thought the guys we played there was a rhythm. We got some older guys I know they're going to make plays down the stretch. They've just been there and done that."