Jalen Pickett scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second half and Sam Sessoms chipped in with 14 points to help Penn State defeat Minnesota 60-51 on Wednesday night in a Big Ten tournament opening-round game in Indianapolis.
The 11th-seeded Nittany Lions (13-16) stopped a three-game losing streak and advanced to face sixth-seeded Ohio State in the second round Thursday night.
#14-seeded Minnesota (13-17), which lost its fifth straight, shot 32.1 percent after halftime and 37 percent for the game.
Strong outside shooting lifted the Nittany Lions after the break. Penn State went 5-for-10 from deep in the second half, with Pickett and Seth Lundy (11 points) contributing two treys apiece during that span. The Nittany Lions overcame a slow start to shoot 59.1 percent in the second half and 44 percent for the game.
Jamison Battle led Minnesota with 19 points, while Eric Curry, Sean Sutherlin and Payton Willis each scored 10.
Golden Gophers starters played every minute of the game until E.J. Stephens entered the lineup for Curry with 3:53 remaining. Stephens, who averaged double-figure scoring and started each game this season, was battling a migraine.
John Harrar snagged 12 rebounds as the Nittany Lions enjoyed a 37-26 edge on the boards.
Penn State capitalized on Minnesota’s 2-for-7 start from the field to open the second half, using a 9-4 run to take a 33-32 lead on a Lundy jumper at the 16:32 mark.
Minnesota led 28-24 at halftime behind eight points from Battle, who swished two of the team’s three 3-pointers. Pickett (nine points) and Sessoms (eight) sparked a balanced attack for Penn State, which trailed by as many as seven in the first 20 minutes.
Battle and Sutherlin grabbed six rebounds each for Minnesota, while Curry had a game-high six assists.
The Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers split the regular-season series, with each team winning on its home court.