Georgia Tech-Louisville Preview
(AP) - Trey Lewis and Damion Lee have remained upbeat as their college careers near an unexpected ending.
The graduate transfers arrived at Louisville with goals of playing in the NCAA Tournament, a quest that appeared to be a lock before the school announced a self-imposed postseason ban on Feb. 5 after an investigation into an escort's book allegations of being hired for strip shows at the team's dormitory discovered that violations did occur.
Several investigations are still pending.
But their college careers likely will be over before those reviews end.
Their postseason dreams suddenly dashed, Lee and Lewis have tried to salvage Louisville's suddenly shortened season by helping them compete for the ACC regular-season title, which continues Tuesday night versus Georgia Tech.
Though that seems more challenging for the 11th-ranked Cardinals (22-7, 11-5) after Saturday's loss at first-place Miami, the veterans' roles in leading a young roster and keeping them in the hunt has given the duo some solace.
It hasn't erased questions of what could have been in the postseason. But both players have cited their faith in helping them see the good in a situation they did not create.
''You're torn in a way, because of course you want to play in the tournament and want all these things to happen,'' Lewis said. ''But then you see all the good that's happened, people coming together (and) supporting each other and you feel loved. ...
''But as a leader, you've got to keep a straight face, stay composed and lead your troops.''
Lee and Lewis have done so and figure to be front and center in Louisville's home finale against Georgia Tech (17-12, 7-9) and Saturday's regular-season finale at No. 3 Virginia. They've been 1-2 in scoring all season for the Cardinals, with Lee averaging 16.3 points and Lewis next at 11.7 in one of the nation's most competitive leagues.
Cardinals coach Rick Pitino cited their poise and composure for helping the roster come together and provide one of his most satisfying seasons as a coach.
''The biggest disappointment I've had with them is the fact that I've only been able to coach them for one year,'' said Pitino, who will honor Lewis, Lee and walk-on Dillon Avare in a pregame ceremony.
The Hall of Fame coach believes both players will get a chance to pursue their dream of playing professionally and foresees coaching in Lewis' future.
Pitino's immediate goal right now is savoring these final games with in a rollercoaster season that began with uncertainty before the Cardinals took flight behind his one-and-dones and developed into possible tournament contenders.
The penalty turned that scenario into a big what-if, but Pitino is grateful for the experience and direction Lewis and Lee provided. The duo is certainly happy for the opportunity to play another year even though it didn't end the way they had hoped.
Lee said it's disappointing not to be playing in the postseason, saying, ''I'd be lying if I said it didn't. But it's one of those situations where you just roll with the punches. Things happen in life, and sometimes people that aren't involved in things have to pay for it.
''But we're all mature and I feel like this has helped us come together as a team and grow as individuals.''
While the Cardinals will be watching the postseason, the Yellow Jackets are hoping their late-season push isn't too little, too late as they seek their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Marcus Georges-Hunt hit all seven of his shots from the field and finished with 23 points as Georgia Tech kept Boston College winless in ACC play with a 76-71 victory Saturday.
Georges-Hunt has averaged 23.5 points on 63.6 percent shooting during the Yellow Jackets' four-game winning streak. The senior guard scored 23 points against Louisville on Jan. 23, making all 12 of his free throws, but also committed a key foul late that led to Anes Mahmoud's go-ahead free throws in the Cardinals' 75-71 win.
Since joining the ACC, the Cardinals have won both games between the teams by a combined five points.
"He's going to have to play at the high level he's been playing at," coach Brian Gregory said of Georges-Hunt. "At the same time we need Adam (Smith) to play well, and we need our bigs to play well.
"Both times we've played Louisville, it's come down to a possession game, and they have playmakers."