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Penn State Hoops Stays Alive In Big Ten Tournament With 60-51 Win Over Minnesota

Penn State men’s basketball (13-16, 8-13 Big Ten) overcame Minnesota (13-17, 4-17 Big Ten) 60-51 in the first round of the Big Ten tournament from Indianapolis, Ind. Wednesday night.

The eleventh-seeded Nittany Lions displayed a huge second half highlighted by 22 points from Jalen Pickett and 12 rebounds from John Harrar. Minnesota proved to be a competitive matchup for Penn State, but the Nittany Lions prevailed and will take on Ohio State tomorrow, Thursday, March 9.

How It Happened

Head coach Micah Shrewsberry rolled out a familiar lineup for his first Big Ten postseason matchup. The Golden Gophers earned the tipoff and got things started from Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Harrar picked up the first points for the Nittany Lions from an offensive rebound to match Minnesota on the scoreboard at two.

Penn State and Minnesota didn’t score for nearly four minutes following both team’s opening buckets until Pickett and Sam Sessoms each found the basket.

Minnesota’s Jamison Battle dropped back-to-back three-pointers to close the Nittany Lions’ early lead. Sessoms quickly responded with a three-pointer of his own to make it 15-14 in favor of Penn State midway through the first half.

The Golden Gophers’ really settled into the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson’s lineup manufactured an 8-0 run and didn’t allow the Nittany Lions to score for nearly five minutes.

Sessoms broke the scoring drought with a fast drive to the basket to minimize Minnesota’s lead to five. Minnesota picked up one point from the foul line followed by a clean three-point jump shot from Pickett.

Despite a burst of energy from Pickett and the Nittany Lions in the final minutes of the half, the momentum was in favor of Minnesota as it converted five fast points in a row. These buckets forced Shrewsberry to call a timeout as Penn State trailed 28-22.

Pickett earned two hard-fought points to close out the first half with a Minnesota lead at 28-24. The Golden Gophers’ starting lineup played the entirety of the first half and Johnson never opted for a substitute in the first 20 minutes of the tournament matchup.

Both Penn State and Minnesota traded baskets to open up the second half shortly before the Nittany Lions hit their hot streak. The Nittany Lions regained their lead after back-to-back three-pointers from Pickett and Seth Lundy to grab a 33-32 edge.

What was once a defensive first-half showdown became an offensive showcase from both teams. Greg Lee, Myles Dread, and Lundy each dropped three-pointers, while Pickett and Sessoms put in work from the paint, all contributing to a nearly 20% increase in the Nittany Lions’ scoring percentage from the first half.

Minnesota put up similar numbers from distance and from the paint. Golden Gopher forward Battle and guard Luke Loewe made the Nittany Lions work on defense, but Penn State continued to pull ahead.

Pickett converted an and-one opportunity to earn Penn State’s largest lead of the game at 48-42. Lundy added another three points to the scoreboard and kept the Nittany Lions’ momentum rolling into the final five minutes of the game.

It was all Pickett from Indianapolis. The senior faked a shot from deep, only to send the ball to Harrar for an easy bucket from the paint.

The Golden Gophers short bench couldn’t hang with Penn State in the second half despite a slow start from Shrewsberry’s lineup. The Nittany Lions are heading to the second round of the Big Ten tournament after outlasting Minnesota 60-51.

Takeaways

  • Tonight was Jalen Pickett’s night. The senior put up 22 points against Minnesota and truly was the second-half game changer for the Nittany Lions.
  • John Harrar never fails to impress. Tonight, the fifth-year senior became the sixth Nittany Lion to post 800 points as well as 800 rebounds throughout his career. Harrar picked up six points and 12 rebounds on the night.
  • Minnesota’s defense put in some serious work. Although the Golden Gophers exhibited a short bench, Minnesota never failed to showcase a fast paced defense that forced an unusually low first half Penn State scoring percentage. The Nittany Lions maintained a scoring percentage right around 30% for the majority of the first half and that was largely due to the powerful Minnesota two-three zone defense.
  • Penn State is a second-half team. That’s all.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will move on to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament and face fourth-seeded Ohio State tomorrow, Thursday, March 10. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. She also talks about random, fun stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese, naps, and Kevin Jonas. If you would like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @lammkeeley or send your best Spotify playlist to her email [email protected]

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