Odom is still rounding into form from an injury that prevented him from playing in the summer and most of the fall.
“For him to get himself in that much shape to be prepared to be the guy who he is, that speaks to his level of maturity and speaks to his level of commitment and being the person we need him to be,” Hayes said.
Mercer had a chance to tie the game with 1.9 seconds remaining when graduate senior Luis Hurtado was fouled on a desperation 3-point shot. Hurtado hit the first free throw, but bounced the second off the front iron. He intentionally missed the third try and the rebound reached Michael Zanoni, whose off-balanced poor-percentage shot missed.
Georgia State (2-1) has won four of the last six games against Mercer and avenged last season’s six-point loss in Macon.
The Panthers also got 15 points from Evan Johnson, 14 points from Brenden Tucker and 13 points and nine rebounds from Ja’Heim Hudson, who just missed his third straight double-double.
Mercer (1-2) got 24 points and seven rebounds from Hurtado. Jah Quinones scored 14, Kamar Robertson scored 11 before fouling out and Jayln McCreary scored 10.
The first half was wild, with Mercer shooting 54% and Georgia State shooting 50%. There were 10 ties and 16 lead changes in the half, which ended with the Panthers leading 43-40. The difference was turnovers. Mercer gave it up 11 times, which resulted in 20 Georgia State points.
Mercer used a 9-0 run in the second half to take a 71-63 lead with 5:50 left. Georgia State answered with eight straight and tied it on a pair of Tucker free throws with 2:59 left.
“Not only for me, but for the whole team, it gives us more confidence,” Odom said,. “The one thing coach preaches to us every day is how to fight, not giving up. When we got down, we fought. That’s the kind of team we have. We know that moving forward we’ve got to improve, closing out games, but coach always says a win is a win.”
The key moment came with 8.6 seconds left. GSU got two good looks at the basket and the ball bounced toward the side. The official ruled the ball glanced off one of three GSU players in the scramble, but the video replay reversed the call and gave it to Georgia State. That enabled Odom to drive and tie the game 77-77.
Georgia State plays three times this weekend when it hosts the Capital Classic. The Panthers play Eastern Kentucky on Friday at 6 p.m., Texas A&M Commerce on Saturday at 3 p.m., and UNC-Asheville on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.