South Carolina was their own worst enemy much of the game, but the Gamecocks overcame their issues to score a 73-68 win over DePaul in a game that finished around 2:10 AM Eastern Time Saturday morning. The Gamecocks advanced to the championship game of the Arizona Tip Off in Phoenix and will face Grand Canyon Sunday night at 7:00 PM EST.
The Gamecocks built a 14-point first half lead against the Blue Demons, and they needed all of that working margin because they did a lot of things that otherwise would have cost them the game. They missed 14 free throws, made just five of 21 from three, turned the ball over 17 times and committed 24 fouls.
Yet, the Gamecocks never trailed and improved to 4-0 for the first time since their Final Four season of 2017. They used a 10-2 run to build a 19-8 lead in the first half. They kept DePaul at arm’s length the rest of the half, never letting the lead dip below seven points. They led 41-32 at the break as Meechie Johnson scored 18 of his game high 24 points in the first twenty minutes.
The Gamecocks pushed the lead back to 14 points on two occasions in the second half. They led 60-46 with just over ten minutes to play but then went five minutes without a bucket, and the Blue Demons were able to close to within six. Jacobi Wright hit a jumper and a layup around a pair of DePaul free throws to keep the lead at eight with 3:27 left.
The Gamecocks did not score another basket the rest of the game, but they held the Blue Demons at bay by making six of eight foul shots. The Gamecocks finished 20 of 34 from the line.
Zachary Davis was the only other Gamecock to score in double figures with ten points off the bench. Josh Gray added eight points and seven rebounds off the bench in his most extensive action of the season. Ta’lon Cooper added nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.