After 16 lead changes and 10 ties with what GSU Head Coach Ron Hunter is calling “the best team” on the schedule, the Panthers just did not have enough to overcome the challenge that was the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday night in Nashville. Ryan Harrow poured in 27 and RJ Hunter added another 21, but in the end, the home team was just too much. Lead by Damian Jones and his 19 points and seven rebounds, the bigger Commodores used a lot of crisp ball movement and timely three point buckets to do just enough to win their season opener.
“This was a dangerous game,” Vanderbilt Head Coach Kevin Stallings said. “That team can really score. It’s an odd game too because and, we knew this going in, they play 40 minutes of zone.”
The Panthers out-rebounded (34-30), committed less fouls (19-20) and turned the ball over less (7-9) than the ‘Dores, but Vandy physically dominated inside and used that to set up their strong perimeter play, which created lots of long range opportunities, that unfortunately for the Panthers, all seemed to fall.
Neither team ever pulled away in the game with GSU’s largest lead coming early in the first half at five points and Vandy late in the first ,and the end of the game, at six. The Panthers found themselves down just one at the half 35-34.
GSU jumped out early in the second half and built a four point lead, but could never pull away, and eventually, Vandy was able to battle back and gain the lead for good. Devonta White was able to cut the lead down to 82-80 with 10 seconds to play, but Vanderbilt would shoot free throws to close out the game and the Panthers would get no closer.
Following Harrow and Hunter on the stat sheet was Curtis Washington, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. White tallied 11 points and five assists. To go along with Hunter’s 21 points, he managed to grab seven rebounds despite being massively undersized in comparison to the Vanderbilt bigs.
The Panthers fall to 1-1 on the young season while Vanderbilt is now 1-0.
“We’re just a bunch of castoffs and we feel we’re going to put this team together,” added a disappointed, but not broken Ron Hunter.
The next time the Panthers hit the court will be November 16 in Tuscaloosa, AL for the Preseason NIT Tournament against the McNeese State Cowboys.