February 08, 2016

Rick Pitino doesn't believe his Louisville players should be punished for the mistakes of others, but he won't mind if they take out their frustrations on opponents.

Coming off an emotional performance after learning their postseason fate, the 13th-ranked Cardinals hope to have leading scorer Damion Lee back when they try to take over sole possession of the ACC lead with a victory at Duke on Monday night.

A day after school president James Ramsey announced that the team wouldn't play in the conference or NCAA tournaments, Louisville responded by outscoring Boston College 44-20 in the paint and forcing 18 turnovers in Saturday's 79-47 home rout.

Ramsey said an investigation revealed that violations did occur when the school reviewed allegations by escort Katina Powell that former basketball staffer Andre McGee paid her and other dancers to strip and have sex with recruits and players.

Louisville's streak of nine straight NCAA tournament appearances will end with the ban. Pitino said after Saturday's game that the players shouldn't have to pay the price.

"This is wrong," said Pitino, who is set to coach his 1,000th game (741-258). "It's a bad system, but that does not mean we are not wrong in what we've done."

Making the ban sting even more was the Cardinals jumping six spots in the Top 25 on Monday.

Trey Lewis stepped up with 16 points Saturday, Deng Adel scored 13 and Chinanu Onuaku pulled down 13 rebounds as the Cardinals (19-4, 8-2) shot 50.9 percent. Lee, averaging a team-high 17.0 points, did not play because of a bruised knee.

After last Monday's 71-65 home win over North Carolina, Louisville moved into a first-place tie atop the ACC following the Tar Heels' loss to Notre Dame on Saturday and can now take over sole possession at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"We just have to make sure we rally around each other and continue to support each other throughout the whole thing," said Lee, whose status remains uncertain. "We have accomplished a mini goal, now we have one day to prepare for Duke."

Louisville leads the ACC in points allowed per game (59.8) and defensive field-goal percentage (37.6) after holding opponents to a 23.7 3-point percentage in its last two. It should be tested against a Duke team averaging a league-high 84.8 points.

The Blue Devils also have hit 25 of 51 from beyond the arc in their past two games, including a season-high 14 in Saturday's 88-80 win over N.C. State in coach Mike Krzyzewski's return following a one-game absence due to illness.

Since dropping four of five to fall out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2007, the Blue Devils (17-6, 6-4) have gotten back on track with back-to-back victories and snapped their first two-game home skid since '07 against the Wolf Pack.

Grayson Allen finished with 28 points and four 3-pointers, while Luke Kennard had 26 and six off the bench. Allen, who ranks second in the ACC with 20.9 points per game, has totaled 56 while making 11 of 17 from beyond the arc in his last two.

Duke now braces for a challenging stretch against Louisville, Virginia and UNC.

"I think we're very prepared," Allen said. "One thing we've been doing very well these past couple of weeks is our preparation for games has been there."

The Blue Devils have lost four of six against the Cardinals but won 63-52 at Louisville last season. They've won seven straight at home versus ranked opponents.

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