Odom is still in form from an injury that prevented him from playing through the summer and most of the fall.
“For him to get in such good shape, ready to be the guy he is, that speaks to his level of maturity and commitment and that he’s the person that we need,” Hayes said.
Mercer had a chance to level the game with 1.9 seconds left when senior Luis Hurtado was fouled with a desperate 3-point shot. Hurtado hit the first free throw but bounced off the front iron on the second. He missed the third attempt on purpose and the rebound reached Michael Zanoni, whose unbalanced, poor-percentage shot went wide.
Georgia State (2-1) has won four of their last six games against Mercer and avenged last season’s six-point loss at Macon.
The Panthers also picked up 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 and Jayln McCreary scored 10.
The first half was wild, with Mercer shooting 54% and Georgia State shooting 50%. There were 10 draws and 16 lead changes at halftime, which ended with the Panthers leading 43-40. The difference was sales. Mercer gave up 11 times, resulting in 20 points at Georgia State.
Mercer used a 9-0 second-half run to take a 71-63 lead with 5-50 to go. Georgia State responded with eight straights and connected it with two Tucker free throws with 2:59 left.
“It gives us more confidence, not just for me, but for the whole team,” said Odom. “The only thing the coach preaches to us every day is how to fight and not give up. When we got down we fought. That’s the kind of team we have. We know we need to improve and finish games, but the manager always says a win is a win.”
The key moment came 8.6 seconds before the end. GSU got two good looks at the basket and the ball bounced sideways. The officer ruled the ball bounced off one of the three GSU players in the scramble, but video playback reversed the call and handed it off to Georgia State. That allowed Odom to drive and tie the game 77-77.
Georgia State will play three times this weekend when it hosts the Capital Classic. The Panthers play Asheville on Friday at 6:00 p.m. in Eastern Kentucky, on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. against Texas A&M Commerce and on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. against UNC