Vanderbilt kicked off the 2013-2014 basketball season with a 86-80 win over a tough Georgia State squad.
The Panthers, who are picked by many to contend in the Sun Belt conference, came out firing from long range, making several early shots from behind the arc, including a couple of NBA-range threes from guard R.J. Hunter. Freshman center Damian Jones provided a first half spark for the Commodores off the bench, scoring a quick five points in his first collegiate minutes on a three-point play and an emphatic dunk. The game remained close until the intermission, which the Commodores entered with a 35-34 lead.
Similar to the first half, the game seesawed back and forth in the second period, with the largest lead for either side being a six-point Vanderbilt lead at 64-58. A Jones mid-range jumper gave the ‘Dores a 75-73 lead with two minutes remaining that they would never relinquish, holding on to win 86-80.
Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow carried the Panthers all night long, making numerous tough shots in the lane on his way to a career-high twenty-seven points. Jones paced the Commodores in both points and rebounds in his debut with nineteen and seven, respectively. Senior forward Rod Odom equaled Jones’s total of 19 points.
Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings was encouraged by the play of his freshman forward.
“I thought Damian Jones was really good for us, but that’s how he played all fall.”
Stallings praised his team’s effort, indicating that he knew Georgia State’s zone defense and scoring ability could provide give his short-handed squad trouble.
“Georgia State can really score. They have several guys who can really score.” Stallings said. “I’m pleased with the victory, and I’m pleased with our poise down the stretch.
The win was Kevin Stallings’ 278th at Vanderbilt, equaling the all-time school mark. Vanderbilt returns to action on Friday night against cross-town rival Lipscomb for a 7 p.m. tipoff.