Coastal Carolina came one win shy of reaching the College Basketball Invitational (CBI) postseason tournament final series for the second time in three seasons.
The Chants were within four points of DePaul in the final minute Wednesday night but couldn’t close the gap and fell 92-87 at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
Coastal (17-17) reached the best-of-three final series in 2017 and fell to Wyoming in three games, and defeated Howard and West Virginia in the opening two rounds this season to reach the semifinals.
CCU senior forward Zac Cuthbertson led the Chants with 21 points in his final collegiate game, hitting 7 of 13 shots including 3 of 5 from three-point range, while redshirt freshman point guard DeVante Jones contributed 16 points and seven assists, freshman guard Ebrima Dibba scored 14 and junior guard Tyrell Gumbs-Frater added 13 points.
For DePaul, sophomore 6-9 forward Paul Reed scored a career-high 24 points while hitting 11 of 14 shots and added three blocks, and his game-high in points was matched by Second-Team All-Big East 6-6 senior guard Max Strus. Senior 6-9 forward Femi Olujobi contributed 18 points and a game-high eight rebounds.
DePaul (18-15) will face the winner of the other semifinal Thursday in Tampa, Fla., pitting Loyola Marymount of the West Coast Conference and South Florida of the American Athletic Conference.
DePaul will go on the road for the opener Monday and host games Wednesday and Friday (if necessary).
Wednesday’s game was back and forth through the first 30 minutes, with neither team taking more than a six-point lead until DePaul took a seven-point lead with 9:31 to play.
The Blue Demons extended the lead to 11 points – 80-69 – by completing an 11-4 run, but Coastal roared back with a 7-0 run featuring a pair of 3-pointers by Gumbs-Frater to cut the deficit back to four points with 5:30 to play.
Coastal would get no closer, however, pulling within four with 2:11 to play on a Tommy Burton layup before going scoreless until Gumbs-Frater hit a jumper with 15 seconds remaining and the Chants trailing by eight points.
Coastal, which posted 109 points in a road win over West Virginia on Monday, continued to shoot well, hitting 47.1 percent of its shots (32 of 68) from the field and 38.7 from three-point range (12 of 31).
But DePaul shot a blistering 58.9 percent from the floor (33 of 56) and was nearly perfect from the free throw line, missing just one of 23 shots (95.7 percent) to take advantage of being in the penalty fairly early in the second half.
The Chants lost the battle inside, as they were outrebounded 36-24 and outscored in the paint 56-28.
DePaul went 7-11 in the Big East Conference to finish 10th in the league and lost to seventh-seeded St. John’s in the first round of the conference tournament. The Blue Demons are now 15-6 at Wintrust Arena this season.
Coastal went 9-9 in the Sun Belt Conference for a sixth-place finish, its highest in its three seasons in the league, and were chosen for the CBI after missing the postseason in 2018.