Louisville, KY- Senior day came down to the final buzzer between the 11th ranked Louisville Cardinals and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Tuesday night at the KFC Yum! Center as the Cards held off Georgia Tech on the way to a 56-53 win. A day which celebrated Damion Lee, Trey Lewis, and Dillon Avare was iced with Lee hitting 2 one and one free throws with 10.7 seconds remaining in the game that put the Cards up 3 and made the lead too big for Georgia Tech to overcome.
It was a one point Louisville lead at halftime, as the two teams seemed to be evenly matched the first 20 minutes. Georgia Tech opened the game by putting up 7 points before the Cards could register a bucket, but Louisville made up their lost ground as the first half continued on. The half ended with Georgia Tech hitting a buzzer beating three that cut the Louisville lead from 4 to 1 and gave the Yellow Jackets some momentum heading into the half.
The second half had the crowd at the Yum Center, all dressed in red, on the edge of their seats. The main problem for Georgia Tech was their poor shooting from 3 point range, but what they lacked in threepointers was made up for with offensive rebounds and second chance points. In crunch time, Chinanu Onuaku headed to the free throw line for Louisville where he hit 2 granny style shots to put the Cards up 54-49. Georgia Tech came charging down the court looking for a three to cut the Cardinal lead to 2. Adam Smith fired from deep for Tech, but it fell short and into the hands of Georgia Tech’s Georges Hunt who hit a put back layup to trim the Louisville lead to 3. In the end, Damion Lee was able to put the Cards up by 3 with two one and one free throws, and Georgia Tech was not able to covert a three point shot to force overtime.
Chinanu Onuaku led the way for Louisville with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Sophomore guard Quentin Snider finished with 11 points, and Senior Damion Lee put up 14 of his own. The Cards missed their first 10 three point attempts until Damion Lee broke the poor shooting streak midway through the second half. The Cards also forced 17 Georgia Tech turnovers leading to 15 points.
For Georgia Tech, Charles Mitchell was the top scorer with 15 points. Adam Smith also put up 12 points. The Yellow Jackets shot 44% from the floor.
What followed the game was more special then any win this season. Because it was senior day, Louisville Head Coach Rick Pitino presented graduate transfers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis with a ring, which was a token of his appreciation for their hard work and commitment this season. The ring was engraved on the inside with “I will always have your back. It has been a pleasure to coach you. I love you. – Coach P”. Lee and Lewis came to Louisville to participate in the NCAA tournament, but because of self-imposed allegations the Cards will not participate in the post season. The ring presentation was followed by the whole team watching their own “One Shining Moment” video similar to the video shown after the National Championship game that commemorates the top moments from the NCAA Tournament. Finally, Damion Lee led the sold out KFC Yum! Center in a “Who’s Got My Back?” chant, which the crowd responded with “I got your back!” It was a special day in downtown Louisville.
The Cards will have their final go around Saturday as they head to Charlottesville, VA to do battle with the 4th ranked Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia defeated Louisville at the Yum Center back on January 30th 63-47. The Cards, who can still win a share of the ACC regular season title, will look to upset UVA and play the spoiler, as Virginia is a number one seat in the ACC tournament and projected number one seat in the NCAA tournament according to Joe Lunardi. Tipoff will be at 6 PM on ESPN.