They lost their postseason aspirations Friday afternoon, then lost their leading scorer, at least for a game, less than 24 hours later. So it was hard to figure how the Louisville Cardinals would respond in their first outing since their university’s administration, after 22 games had been played, imposed a postseason ban.
Would they rally in response to adversity?
Or would they struggle physically while emotionally devastated?
Rick Pitino’s team provided an answer to those questions Saturday afternoon by leading 19-2 eight minutes after tipoff, 32-14 at the half and cruising to a 79-47 victory over Boston College inside of a KFC Yum! Center that was filled with fans who honored their Hall of Fame coach’s request to support the players unconditionally. So the 19th-ranked Cardinals are now 19-4 overall, 8-2 in the ACC and … yeah … still headed nowhere, thanks to that postseason ban that was implemented in an attempt to lessen the long-term effects of an ongoing NCAA investigation that was launched after a self-described madam published a book with allegations that a former Louisville staff member, Andre McGee, used her many times to arrange strippers and escorts for players and prospects.
As I wrote Friday, Louisville’s administration should be ashamed.
The administration ripped away the dreams of players at a point in the calendar when they have no option but to accept it and try to endure, and it’s especially unfair for fifth-year seniors Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, both of whom decided back in April, well before the scandal broke, to transfer and spend their final seasons of eligibility at Louisville so that they could finally participate in the NCAA Tournament.
And they were on their way to doing exactly that.
Until Louisville’s administration shamefully ripped it away.
“We should be penalized, no question about it, but not this team,” Pitino said after Saturday’s win. “But the NCAA didn’t make that decision. We made that decision.”
Speaking of Lee and Lewis, Lee did not play Saturday because of a bruised knee, leaving the Cardinals without their top scorer, who is averaging 17.0 points while shooting 37.6 percent from 3-point range. It didn’t matter, though — mostly because Boston College is so bad that it entered on a nine-game losing streak and without a single true road win all season, but also because Lewis finished with a game-high 16 points.
Louisville now has eight games left.