Gophers coach Ben Johnson couldn't understand why he felt a weird vibe before the game, but his basketball team just wasn't engaged going into Saturday's rematch against Penn State at Williams Arena.

It was almost as if the Gophers had trouble getting pumped up to play at their best after so many missed opportunities for big wins to bolster their NCAA tournament résumé this season.

Saturday's game seemed to mean more early to the Nittany Lions because the Gophers beat them in the teams' most recent meeting in State College, Pa., in late January.

That's where the Gophers' home-court advantage came into play. The players needed the crowd to help provide a spark of energy to overcome a 23-point deficit in Saturday's 75-70 comeback victory.

"We were flat, and they came through for us," Johnson said of the fans.

The Gophers (18-11, 9-9 Big Ten) won their fifth consecutive home game to improve to 16-3 at the Barn this season, including 7-2 in the Big Ten. Winning their last final home game Wednesday night against Indiana would tie the U for its most home victories in a season since 2016-17.

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The NCAA tournament is still the goal, but the Gophers can't host NIT games this year. The Big Ten tournament is at Target Center in Minneapolis, so Minnesota's high school state tournament will be at Williams Arena this month.

Chances are running out to see Gophers standouts such as Dawson Garcia, Elijah Hawkins, Cam Christie and others play this season. Not surprisingly, the Gophers faithful came out strong Saturday to set a season-high announced attendance of 11,318. This wasn't about rival Wisconsin or Iowa packing the house.

"Those that stayed throughout the whole year were a big part of the reason why we're pretty good at home," Johnson said. "You don't do that unless you have a good crowd, a good fan base and people behind you. Our guys really rely on that. It gives them energy. Today was probably the day we needed them the most."

Senior forward Parker Fox, who was one of the four graduates on the roster honored Saturday, made sure fans had something to get excited about during a frustrating first half. He scored seven of his 11 points and had all four of his entertaining blocks by halftime.

"He plays with energy," Johnson said. "He was flying around. He realized we were flat, so somebody had to step up, and thankfully he did. I thought that carried us in the second half. That was really good leadership and determination from him. He didn't want to leave tonight with a loss."

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The Gophers had to defend at a considerably higher level to chip away at the huge deficit Saturday by holding Penn State to 38% shooting in the second half, including 2-for-10 shooting from three-point range. That was a significant difference from allowing the Nittany Lions to go 9-for-13 from long distance in the first half.

Johnson said his best perimeter defender, Braeden Carrington, missed Saturday's game because of a concussion but was "feeling better." Even minus Carrington, the Gophers backcourt dominated late with Christie, Hawkins and Mike Mitchell Jr. combining for 35 of their 48 points in the second half.

Christie had 13 of his team-high 19 points in the second half on 4-for-7 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 free throws. Hawkins had 11 points and six of his eight assists in the second half. Mitchell scored all of his 11 points in the second half to go with his career-high five steals in the game.

"It wasn't a surprise how we started," Johnson said. "Now it's finding ways to get them to play mentality wise like we did versus Michigan State, Northwestern and Illinois in terms of being on edge from start. Not easing into a game."