Garland injured in Vanderbilt’s 77-75 loss to Kent State

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              Kent State guard Antonio Williams, left, shoots as he is defended by Vanderbilt forward Clevon Brown (15) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Friday, Nov. 23, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kent State got a big road win and Vanderbilt got something big to worry about.

Vanderbilt star Darius Garland left early with an injury and Jaylin Walker scored 22 points in his first game of the season after returning from a suspension as Kent State handed the Commodores their first loss with a 77-75 victory Friday.

Jalen Avery and C.J. Williamson both scored 18 points for Kent State (5-1), which made 12 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

“Coming from a mid-major conference we keep a chip on our shoulder,” said Avery, whose team plays in the Mid-America Conference. “Growing up, these are the type of teams we wanted to play for. We wanted to go to an SEC-type of school and when you get the opportunity to come to these type of schools you want to win.”

Walker and Avery both made four 3-pointers.

Garland, Vanderbilt’s point guard who entered the game as the Southeastern Conference’s third-leading scorer (19.8 points per game), left with a left knee injury two minutes into the first half.

The freshman NBA prospect appeared to injure his knee during a layup.

“He’s going to get some further testing tonight,” Commodores coach Bryce Drew said. “Hopefully, we’ll get some good news in the next 48 hours. They (doctors) want to do a very thorough analysis of everything before they comment on what they think it is.”

Garland scored a career-high 33 points in Monday’s win over Liberty. He was a five-star prospect and McDonald’s All-American at nearby Brentwood Academy last season. Garland and Simi Shittu formed the heart of Vanderbilt’s best recruiting class in school history.

It was unclear whether Garland hurt his knee going up or coming down on the layup.

“I’ve seen him make that type play often and nothing happens, so I don’t know if he just took off awkward or landed awkwardly,” Drew said. “Obviously, when we see the film we’ll see if we can see anything.”

Shittu led Vanderbilt (4-1) with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Joe Toye added 15 points.

The Commodores cut the deficit to one twice in the final 8:43 but couldn’t catch the Golden Flashes.

“For our guys this is a really good win,” Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said. “I have two seniors (Avery and Walker) who have been through a lot of battles together and I thought today their experience and leadership shined through.”

Vanderbilt’s Saben Lee scored 13 points but missed two crucial foul shots during the final minutes.

Kent State scored 16 points off turnovers.

Powered by nine 3-pointers in the first half, Kent State took a 41-34 lead at the break.

MISSING DARIUS

Vanderbilt couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm without Garland, especially in the first half. “It was deflating, but we still had enough to win,” Toye said. “We just didn’t get it done. Next man up, everybody’s a good player on this team, but obviously it really hurt that he wasn’t on the court with us today.” Shittu may have to take on a bigger role. “Darius is a big part of our team,” Shittu said. “He creates for others and scores and I can do both as well, so depending on the severity I’m going to have to play a bigger role.”

BIG PICTURE

Kent State: The Flashes got a big road win against a highly touted SEC opponent.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores’ biggest concern is the status of Garland, their versatile guard.

UP NEXT

Kent State: The Golden Flashes visit Detroit Mercy on Wednesday in the second of a two-game road trip.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores host Savannah State on Tuesday in the finale of a four-game homestand.

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