Penn State was in some trouble early in its season opener against VMI, trailing by 12 points, but the team regrouped and went on to win easily Saturday afternoon.
Jamari Wheeler hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give PSU a lead, and Wheeler scored a career-high 18 points in the Nittany Lions’ 86-65 victory.
Wheeler hit a career-best four 3-pointers and also had five steals.
The game marked the debut for PSU interim head coach Jim Ferry.
“All of us are just really grateful for the opportunity to play this game,” Ferry said in a PSU release. “It’s been so long. I mean, it’s probably almost been, close to 300 days since we played our last game. These guys have worked really, really hard. They have really sacrificed a lot. That goes for everybody, everybody who was able to help us put the games together and to be able to go out here and play tonight was a big deal for us, it really was.
“With that said, I think it looks like we hadn’t played in 300 days,” Ferry said. We had a lot of get out a lot of rust and guys getting to know each other, first competition, not against ourselves, in a long time, and a lot of practices, and I think we really just needed this. We needed this, to play against somebody else. We needed to play against someone in a different uniform running different things, challenging us in different ways.”
Penn State fell behind 26-14 early, then closed the half strong to set the tone for the rest of the game. Wheeler then had 13 of his 18 in the second half as PSU outscored VMI 49-30 over the final 20 minutes.
Izaiah Brockington had 15 points for the Lions, while Myreon Jones and Seth Lundy had 12 apiece. Newcomer Sam Sessoms, a transfer from Binghamton, added 12 off the bench.
VMI is coached by former Penn State player and assistant coach Dan Earl.