South Carolina tops DePaul despite poor foul shooting

Meechie Johnson scored 18 of his team-high 24 points in the first half Friday night as South Carolina overcame some poor foul shooting to stop DePaul 73-68 in the Arizona Tip-Off in Glendale.

Zachary Davis came off the bench to add 10 for the Gamecocks (4-0), who never trailed but couldn’t put away the Blue Demons because South Carolina made only 20 of 34 free throws. The Gamecocks also had 17 turnovers but gave up just 14 points off them.

Chico Carter Jr. scored 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting for DePaul (1-3) but didn’t get enough help. No one else reached double figures for the Blue Demons, who made only 41.1 percent of their shots from the field and were outrebounded 38-29.

South Carolina led 58-44 with 12:06 left in the game after Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk got a putback but DePaul clawed back. It got within five on two occasions down the stretch but wasn’t able to even get within one possession.

The Gamecocks will play Grand Canyon, which edged San Francisco 76-72 in Friday’s first semifinal, for the tournament title on Sunday. DePaul and San Francisco will play in the day’s first game for third place.

Johnson didn’t waste much time putting his stamp on the game. He scored nine points in the first 4:25 as South Carolina established a 14-6 lead. The Gamecocks were able to maintain that advantage over the half’s remainder, even as DePaul fought back.

Johnson hit a mid-range jumper and then converted a three-point play for a 24-10 cushion at the 10:03 mark but the Blue Demons gradually worked their way into contention after that. They got the lead down to 37-30 on a short jumper by Carter with 1:57 remaining in the half.

Johnson responded with a layup and two foul shots, finishing an 18-point half, as South Carolina took a 41-32 advantage to the locker room. The Gamecocks made nearly 58 percent of their shots, while DePaul checked in at just 38.5 percent.