ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP) For the third time in as many games this season, South Carolina found itself in a precarious second-half position.
And for the third time in as many games, the Gamecocks found a way to survive.
Mindaugas Kacinas scored a career-high 23 points and South Carolina survived a shaky stretch after halftime on the way to topping DePaul 76-61 in the Paradise Jam on Friday.
The Gamecocks (3-0) saw what was a 16-point lead after halftime trimmed to five with 8:20 left, but PJ Dozier scored five points in what became a 10-1 run that put South Carolina in control for good.
South Carolina will play Hofstra - a surprise winner over Florida State earlier Friday - in Sunday's semifinals. Duane Notice scored 11 points and Sindarius Thornwell finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for the Gamecocks.
Darrick Wood scored 14 points for DePaul (1-2), which lost for the 36th time in its last 43 road and neutral-site games. Wood had five points in what was a 14-3 run over a 2 1/2 minute spurt after halftime that got the Blue Demons within 56-51, but DePaul managed only one field goal in the next four-plus minutes and couldn't recover.
Billy Garrett added 11 for DePaul, which next faces Florida State on Saturday in the consolation round.
The Blue Demons needed only a 58-second span of the first half to rip off seven unanswered points and tie the game at 16, but the Gamecocks closed the half on a 21-12 run to take control. Notice hit a 3-pointer on the final South Carolina possession before intermission, giving his team a 37-28 lead at the break.
After DePaul managed to score just 2 points in a 5 1/2 minute stretch early in the second half, the Gamecocks pushed the lead to 16.
But just as was the case in South Carolina's first two games against Norfolk State and Oral Roberts, there was yet another second-half moment of angst for the Gamecocks.
They seem to thrive in that situation.
Against Norfolk State, a 13-3 spurt gave the Gamecocks all the breathing room they needed. Against Oral Roberts, a 19-4 run put the game away. And against DePaul, a 15-4 run over a late four-minute stretch was the deciding flurry.
It was the first meeting between the schools since 1999.
DePaul: The Blue Demons are off to a 1-2 start for the first time since the 2010-11 season. ... DePaul has only seven made 3-pointers in the season's first three games, and is shooting 17.5 percent from long range to start the year. No team in Division I wound up shooting worse than 25 percent from beyond the arc last season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have been remarkably consistent to start the year. Their field-goal percentages, in order: 39 percent, 40 percent, then 40 percent. And their free-throw percentages, also in order: 69 percent, 70 percent, 70 percent. ... South Carolina is 5-2 in its last seven games against Big East opponents.
DePaul: Florida State in Paradise Jam consolation round, Saturday.
South Carolina: Hofstra in Paradise Jam semifinals, Sunday.