NEW YORK — A turbulent day for the Big Ten ended with a trophy presentation.
Minnesota gave the conference a distraction from Northwestern's point-shaving scandal by winning its second NIT title this decade Thursday night with a 79-72 victory over league rival Penn State.
Kevin Clark overcame flu to score a career-high 28 points, Sam Jacobson had 23 and Quincy Lewis 19 for the Gophers (20-15).
Clark was named the tournament's most valuable player.
The Golden Gophers, who lost seven players from last season's Final Four team, dropped their first six league games. But Clem Haskins' squad regrouped to win 11 of its last 14.
"This is a bigger thrill for me than getting to the Final Four," Haskins said, "because we weren't expected to be here."
Playing in its first men's basketball championship game, Penn State (19-13) was hoping to shed its image as a football-only school, but the Nittany Lions couldn't rally after falling behind by 10 points in the second half.
Calvin Booth led Penn State with 14 points. Senior Pete Lisicky, the second-leading scorer in school history, was only three for 12 from the field.
"I was forcing some and they were playing tough," Lisicky said. "They were able to do some things defensively against us that non-conference teams couldn't."
Leading, 38-37, two minutes into the second half, Lewis scored all 10 points in a 10-2 spurt that put the Gophers ahead, 48-39, with 15:15 left.
"I think we picked it up defensively," Lewis said.
Penn State, which rallied from 10 points down in the second half to beat Minnesota in the first meeting this season, stormed back with a 9-4 run. But Lewis made a three-point basket, and Clark scored two layups as the Gophers pushed their lead to 62-53 with 6:12 remaining.
Lewis and Clark scored 27 of Minnesota's first 29 points in the second half, and combined with Jacobson to score 70 of the Golden Gophers' points for the game.
In the consolation game, G.G. Smith made a school-record nine three-point baskets and Georgia defeated Fresno State, 95-79.