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Penn St. starts Jim Ferry era against Virginia Military Institute

·3 min read

Penn State has had to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in addition to another problem entering its season opener against the Virginia Military Institute in State College, Pa., on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions will play their first game under interim coach Jim Ferry after Pat Chambers resigned last month after former Penn State guard Rasir Bolton claimed Chambers said Bolton, who is Black, had a "noose" around his neck. Chambers, who is white, tweeted an apology.

"We've all been working together, so there really hasn't been that much change," Ferry told the Centre Daily Times. "We had one of the best seasons in the history of the school last year, so I don't think we're looking to change much."

The Nittany Lions' initial season opener against Drexel this past Wednesday was postponed because of coronavirus.

It's no surprise that Ferry, who spent the previous three seasons as one of Chambers' assistants, wants to maintain the status quo at Penn State. The Nittany Lions went 21-10 last season and peaked at No. 9 in the AP Top 25 before going 1-5 over their last six games.

Despite that finish, Penn State returns three of its top five scorers from last season -- Myreon Jones (13.3 points per game), Myles Dread (8.6) and Izaiah Brockington (8.1), who are all junior guards.

Meanwhile, the Virginia Military Institute is trying to build on its victory on Wednesday, when Ta'Vonne Bond led six Keydets in double figures with a career-high 15 points as VMI rolled over St. Andrews -- an NAIA school from North Carolina -- 90-63 in its season opener.

Saturday's game will be a homecoming for Keydets coach Dan Earl, a two-time All-Big Ten selection at Penn State and former assistant coach for the Nittany Lions from 2006-11. Earl, who is 45-111 in five-plus seasons with the Keydets, is looking forward to returning to his alma mater.

"It will be fun getting back to Happy Valley on Saturday," said Earl, whose Southern Conference team went 9-24 last season. "I'm a proud Penn State alum, and it will be good to play up there. I think our guys are excited. It's fun to play any game at this point with all the precautions we are taking. I haven't watched much film on them, and I will start doing that now. Obviously, they are a Big Ten team and have a decent amount of returners back and they play physical, so we are going to have to be even tougher defensively and on the boards up there, but we'll expect to go at them."

Ferry, who is 210-246 as a Division 1 head coach, said he doesn't plan to change much despite having up-tempo teams during his stints at Duquesne and LIU-Brooklyn.

"I think, if anything, you might see a little change and the possibility to go a little bit smaller," Ferry said. "You know, even before LIU, my teams have always played at a high pace, at a high rate. We've always played unselfishly and shared the basketball, which I think we've done here very much as well."

The Nittany Lions defeated the Keydets, 62-50, in the teams' previous meeting, which opened the 2015-16 season.

--Field Level Media