Ben Johnson had never looked as dejected so far this season with his Gophers basketball team as he did after Thursday's 90-75 loss against Michigan, his fourth straight defeat.

It wasn't necessarily that the Gophers dropped their Big Ten home opener but how it happened. Defensively, Johnson's team hit rock bottom, especially in the first half when the game got out of reach.

"This was one of the rougher starts we've had where we just didn't have a physical presence defensively," said Johnson, whose team has a quick turnaround before No. 23 Mississippi State on Sunday. "In league play, you let someone shoot 55 percent from three and 52 percent from the field, you don't have much of a shot. So we've got to figure that out."

Here are four takeaways from the second Big Ten loss for the Gophers on Thursday:

No defensive identity

The Gophers have struggled mightily defensively the last two seasons and it's been making it nearly impossible to compete on a nightly basis.

Last season, the Gophers were ranked No. 153 nationally in defensive efficiency, per, the program's worst rating since they were 163rd in the 8-23 season in 2015-16. It's at No. 158 this year.

Beyond the scouting report, how do Johnson and his coaches put players in the best position to have success stopping opponents consistently? That might be the biggest question moving forward.

Offense is typically about confidence, but defense is more effort and execution as a team. In Minnesota's last four losses, UNLV, Virginia Tech, Purdue and now Michigan have shot a combined 47% from the field and 42% from three-point range. Those numbers jump in the last three games to 51% from the field and 45% from three.

"We have to be much better defensively," Johnson said. "We have figure out how to improve quickly on the defensive end. Get our confidence defensively and get our rhythm defensively."

Who is the go-to guy?

To start Thursday's game against Michigan, the Gophers made it obvious they were trying to establish Dawson Garcia offensively. He took the team's first four shots and made a couple baskets.

Problem is Michigan did the same getting the ball to Hunter Dickinson, who was just more effective. He outscored Garcia 7-4 to open the game. And that opened it up for his teammates on the perimeter when the ball moved.

Both Dickinson and Gophers junior Jamison Battle were on the Big Ten's all-preseason team, but Battle didn't take his first shot until the Gophers trailed 15-6. And that was on a contested three-pointer.

Coming off a 21-point game in Sunday's loss at Purdue, Battle had 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting Thursday. Garcia had 13 points on 6-for-13 shooting. Point guard Ta'Lon Cooper led the team with 16 points on 4-for-9 shooting. Does Battle need to get more shots, especially earlier in the game?

Maybe freshman big man Pharrel Payne needs earlier touches as well. Payne had 13 of his 15 points in the second half. And he finished his third game this season going perfect from the floor (6-for-6).

Fast or slow?

The pace picked up for the Gophers from the outset Thursday when Cooper stole the ball from Michigan only to have it stolen right back as he raced up the floor. The U's starting point guard made more of a habit of getting into transition right after a rebound against the Wolverines.

Playing fast, though, hasn't been the Gophers' style this season. They rank second to last in the Big Ten in adjusted tempo at 316th nationally, only above Wisconsin at No. 333, according to Ken Pom.

The Gophers had a season-high 11 fast break points Thursday, but they also committed 16 turnovers.

Starting lineup changes

For the second straight game, Johnson decided to use freshman Joshua Ola-Joseph in the starting lineup instead of sophomore Treyton Thompson, who started the first seven games.

Thompson, a 7-footer, was out sick in the Big Ten opener at Purdue. He was back Thursday, but he only played one minute.

The Gophers are going smaller now with Ola-Joseph, who had his second straight double figure scoring game with 11 points. His five turnovers were a concern, but he also tied a team-high with five rebounds.

Does Ola-Joseph's emergence mean Thompson is out of the rotation? The Gophers might need his rim protection and ability to stretch the floor against other opposing centers, including Sunday at Mississippi State.