Nashville, TN - Vanderbilt’s Dai-Jon Parker had been in foul trouble and having a quiet second half when visiting Georgia State tied the game with a little over two minutes to play Tuesday. Parker made sure the final stretch of the game belonged to the hosts.
Parker hit a 3-pointer and assisted on two other baskets to help Vanderbilt pull away for a 86-80 victory at Memorial Gym.
The game was tied at 73-73 after Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter hit one of two free throws at the 2:18 mark. Parker, who picked up his third foul late in the first half and didn’t play in the first seven minutes of the second before soon being hit with his fourth, assisted on a field goal by freshman Damian Jones to put Vanderbilt (1-0) up for good with 1:55 left. Parker followed with a 3-pointer for a five-point lead and later, he assisted on Jones’ dunk to help the Commodores equal their largest lead at 82-76.
Georgia State (1-1), which was playing a Southeastern Conference school for the first time since the 2005-2006 season and fell to 4-28 all-time against the conference, got as close as 82-80 on two free throws by Devonta White with 10 seconds to play.
The Panthers got a huge boost from Curtis Washington, a Southern California transfer in his first year at the Atlanta school. Washington had just three points at halftime, but scored seven straight points during a two-minute stretch early in the second and Ryan Harrow, another first-year transfer (Kentucky), who led all scorers with 27 points, hit two baskets that helped Georgia State maintain a slim lead at 54-52.
But Rod Odum, who along with Jones scored a team-high 19 points, hit three 3-pointers and Georgia State converted just three field goals over the final four minutes of the game.
“Our guys came in hungry and played a great game,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter told georgiastatesports.com. “I knew that if we stuck to our game plan, we would have a chance all the way to the end of the game. I think Vanderbilt is probably the best team on our schedule and we went head-to-head with them. One break here or there and the result could have been different.”
Vanderbilt erased a three-point first half deficit with an 11-2 run, aided by a pair of 3-pointers from Parker, that gave the Commodores their biggest lead of the first half at 33-27 with 3:09 to play.
Georgia State fought back to get within one point at 35-34 at halftime. Harrow had four of his 13 first-half points on a lay up after a steal by Manny Atkins at the other end, and two free throws when Parker picked up his third foul with three seconds left in the half.
The Panthers’ first four made field goals were from behind the arc, including White’s that not only put the visitors up 6-2 early, but tied the guard with Travis Williams for 15th on the all-time scoring list.
White took over sole possession of 15th place with a jumper early in the second half, part of an 11-point, five-assist night for the senior.
Jones had consecutive three-point plays to put Vanderbilt up 20-16 at the 9:53 mark. Harrow answered with two free throws and a steal and lay up, Markus Crider added a lay up off a pass from White and a 3-pointer by Hunter put the Panthers up 25-22 with 6:45 to play.
Hunter added 21 points for Georgia State, which will play McNeese State in the opening game of the NIT Season Tip-off Monday at the University of Alabama. Eric McClellan added 18 points for Vanderbilt, which hosts in-state rival Lipscomb Friday at 8:00 p.m.