Penn State 86, VMI 65: Wheeler Leads the Way For Penn State in Opener

By Matthew Filipovits on November 28, 2020 at 5:32 pm
Feb 4, 2020; East Lansing, Michigan, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jamari Wheeler (5) brings the ball up court against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the first half at the Breslin Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
© Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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Seven months and a coaching change since the last time they took the court, Penn State hoops was back in action on Saturday afternoon, cruising to an 86-65 win over the Virginia Military Institute Keydets. Senior guard Jamari Wheeler led the way for Penn State, dropping 18 points, six boards, and five steals.

  1st half 2nd half Final
Penn State 37 49 86
VMI 35 30 65

The Lions started things off with Wheeler, Myreon Jones, Izaiah Brockington, Seth Lundy, and John Harrar. Sam Sessoms and Myles Dread were the first guys off the bench, with each playing at least 19 minutes. With a thin frontcourt, Lundy spent a lot of time at the five, allowing the Nittany Lions to go with a quick lineup for long stretches of the game.

Things started out pretty slow for Jim Ferry's team, with the Nittany Lions trailing by 12 points with under eight to play in the opening half. Transfer guard Sam Sessoms hit from deep to wake Penn State up from their trance, setting the stage for an impressive debut. Jamari Wheeler hit a three as time expired in the half, one of his four connections from deep. Long considered a facilitator, Wheeler took the most shots of any Nittany Lion (13) and looked like a guy who wanted the ball in his hands. 

Everything clicked for the Nittany Lions in the second half, with Penn State connecting on over 51% of their shots in the final period. They got some efficient play from Brockington and the aforementioned Sessoms, with the junior guards chipping in 15 and 12 points, respectively. 

The Midnight Domino crew of Jones and Harrar didn't light up the box score, but Jones still chipped in 12 points and was 4-4 from the line. He went 0-5 from beyond the arc, something he'll have to get sorted out before VCU comes to town on Wednesday. Harrar played the fewest amount of minutes of any starter, but led the team in boards and did a great job staying out of trouble.

When it was clear thins had gotten out of hand, Jim Ferry gave the 2020 recruiting class some run, with Dallion Johnson connecting on a three on his first career shot attempt. Abdou Tsimbila had an impressive block down the stretch and while that doesn't mean much, the Nittany Lions will need him to take on a bigger load when the Big Ten schedule kicks in. Any confidence boost you can give him is a positive.

The Nittany Lions are back in action on Wednesday when they'll host VCU. The Rams are already 2-1 on the young season, with wins over Utah State and Memphis.

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