ST. THOMAS, USVI — Behind a career high 23 points from senior forward Mindaugas Kacinas, the South Carolina men’s basketball team (3-0) posted a 76-61 victory over DePaul (1-2) in the opening round of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam in St. Thomas on Friday night. Kacinas posted his first-career 20-point outing, behind a 10-of-15 effort from the free throw line and a 6-of-13 mark from the floor. The Gamecocks played solid defensively against the Blue Demons, holding DePaul to 36.5 percent from the floor, including 21.4 percent from 3-point range.
South Carolina jumped out to a 9-3 lead on a lay-in from junior guard Sindarius Thornwell and pushed the advantage to 16-9 on a two-handed dunk from classmate Duane Notice. Both teams struggled from the free throw line early, but DePaul clawed back and tied the contest at 16 on a made 3-point bucket and a pair of jumpers in the lane from Rashaun Stimmage.
Kacinas carried the Gamecocks to halftime, scoring seven of the final 17 points, including five from the free throw line. Thornwell added four points during the final stretch and Notice beat the buzzer with a 3 from the corner to give Carolina a nine-point lead at the break, 37-28.
An off-balance tip-in and make from the foul line for Kacinas with 14:32 remaining in the contest saw the Gamecock lead grow to 15 at 49-37. The Blue Demons continued to chip away at the Carolina advantage, however, and pulled to within five on a pair of free throws from Myke Henry at the eight-minute mark.
Thornwell connected on a pair of makes from the line and senior forward Laimonas Chatkevicius and freshman guard PJ Dozier connected on consecutive lay-ups to push the Gamecock lead back to 14 with 6:22 remaining. The Blue Demons would not get closer than 13 the rest of the way, and the Gamecocks secured the 76-61 win.