Ben Johnson couldn't even try if he wanted to have his Gophers men's basketball team simulate the next opponent's size.

Western Kentucky center Jamarion Sharp, at 7-foot-5, is the tallest player in Division I. And Sharp comes off the bench for a team with two athletic 6-9 and 6-8 high major transfers and starting posts.

Coming off his first victory as head coach, Johnson felt like the 71-56 opening win against Missouri Kansas City was a step in the right direction. But a repeat performance means doing it Friday night against an opponent with superior size and athleticism.

The Asheville Championship will give Johnson and his team a much bigger test, literally, starting with the opening game against Western Kentucky in North Carolina.

"Western Kentucky is a whole different challenge," Johnson said. "They're a talented team. Coach [Rick Stansbury] does a great job of playing with a lot of athletes. It's going to be a test."

Johnson didn't expect the first game to reveal as much as it did about the Gophers, who have 10 newcomers and an entirely new starting lineup.

After Tuesday's win, Johnson learned the Gophers have great teamwork defensively and are unselfish and balanced offensively. He learned they can blow a big lead but also respond when adversity hits down the stretch.

"We took confidence from that," Johnson said about finishing on a 17-4 run after leading by just two points late in the second half.

The Hilltoppers had to squeak out their opener as well in Tuesday's 79-74 win against Alabama State at home.

Stansbury lost All-America center Charles Bassey to the NBA, but he added DePaul transfer Jaylen Butz, Maryland transfer Jairus Hamilton and Sharp, who combined for 37 points and 15 rebounds Wednesday.

Hamilton, who started his career at Boston College, had a team-high 21 points. Sharp, a former junior college star, had a team-high eight rebounds and two blocks.

"We won't get too far from what we do," said Johnson on how to guard Western Kentucky's size. "What we do is effective when we do it hard and do it aggressive and we do it right."

After getting outrebounded in an exhibition win against Concordia (St. Paul), Johnson was encouraged by the way the Gophers battled inside on opening night.

UMKC big man Josiah Allick had a game-high 21 points and fueled a late comeback, but his impact was minimized on the boards. The Roos had just four offensive rebounds the entire game.

"I think the physicality of [Tuesday night] will help us," Johnson said. "It will help us with rebounding. It will help us with the 50-50 balls. It will help us with attention to detail."

The Gophers will play Sunday against South Carolina or Princeton, two teams also with formidable size. But Johnson said opponents will have to adjust to his style of play with smaller and versatile post players.

Sophomore Jamison Battle, who stands 6-7 and had a team-high 18 points Tuesday, can pull defenses away from the basket with outside shooting. So can his starting center, 6-9 senior Eric Curry.

"Being a three-point shooter, they're looking for me and setting me screens," Battle said about his teammates. "They're working to get me open."

Off the bench, senior transfer Charlie Daniels is a physical presence at 6-9 and 230, but he has limited shooting range. Freshman Treyton Thompson, Minnesota's tallest player at 6-11, didn't play against UMKC, but he might be able to stretch the defense Friday as a three-point threat.

Saying Western Kentucky is a much bigger opponent is an understatement, but the Gophers don't appear too concerned with being undersized after their opening win.

"They got to guard us, and they got to play away from the rim," Johnson said about the towering Hilltoppers. "Our guys' mindset is ... it doesn't matter. They'll find a way to get it right."