After two years of replacing most of his roster from scratch, Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson might finally have the depth to play the way he wants — much faster than he ever has.

To open Johnson's third season, the Gophers showed off an up-tempo and attacking style around Dawson Garcia that led to Monday's 80-60 season-opening victory against Bethune-Cookman in front of 7,132 at Williams Arena.

"We want to be aggressive," Johnson said. "We want to play downhill. We want to be able to defend, rebound and get out and run and get easy points."

The Gophers, who had eight different players score in the game, were led by Garcia's 23 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high-tying six assists. They seemed a bit out of control at times and committed 17 turnovers. But this wasn't the same team that often stood and watched Garcia post up last season.

That used to be typical of the Gophers but not Monday — and also not the way they responded to adversity after losing a lead.

The Gophers held the Wildcats to 18% shooting (7-for-40 from the field) in the first half and led 46-22 at halftime but had a 27-point lead cut to as few as 10 points in the second half.

Garcia, the leading scorer on a 9-22 team last season, told his teammates in a huddle that he was proud of the way they kept Bethune-Cookman from getting closer.

"That's something that last year's team wasn't doing," Garcia said. "We've got a lot of potential to be very good. Players holding each other accountable is the biggest thing."

Newcomers Elijah Hawkins and Mike Mitchell Jr. got the Gophers moving the ball and running at every opportunity. Garcia also had more veteran help in the frontcourt than last season. Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen combined for 15 points, five rebounds and four steals after each missed two years because of knee injuries.

Fox's first basket with the Gophers came running the floor after the ball zipped up the court following a defensive rebound. Ten of the U's 15 fast-break points were in the first half. Ihnen displayed his versatility creating several transition points off deflections.

The crowd-pleasing dunks early included sophomore Joshua Ola-Joseph catching alley-oop passes from Garcia and Mitchell. But the easy buckets didn't come as frequently after Bethune-Cookman forced the Gophers into mistakes.

Gophers fans seemed concerned when Zion Harmon's layup made it 64-54 with 5 minutes, 3 seconds remaining, but Garcia responded a minute later with five consecutive points and a nifty pass to Braeden Carrington for a dunk with 1:41 to play. Carrington, who finished with 13 points, converted a three-point play for a 76-58 advantage.

"I'm going to be honest, I thought he was going to shoot," Carrington said of Garcia's pass. "But Ben definitely emphasizes one more pass. That's something we need to learn."

Garcia was a go-to guy down the stretch, but he also had no problems sharing the basketball. Playing fast with the Gophers' depth around their preseason All-Big Ten forward will be something to watch moving forward.

Freshman Cameron Christie missed the game because of an illness, but Johnson said he expects Christie to play Friday vs. Texas-San Antonio. Sophomore Pharrel Payne, who also missed the exhibition against Macalester last week, returned from a minor injury to start at center.