- Associated Press - Saturday, January 23, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - With an NCAA investigation looming over his program, Rick Pitino couldn’t be prouder of the way Louisville has responded.

The 17th-ranked Cardinals showed their mettle again Saturday.

Damion Lee scored 17 points, Anas Mahmoud added 15 and Louisville held on in the closing seconds for its third straight win, beating snake-bitten Georgia Tech 75-71.

“When we were hit with this, it not only broke our hearts, it broke our spirits,” Pitino said. “Then we get a group like this that totally raised our spirits.”

One of Pitino’s former staffers is accused of hiring dancers to strip and have sex with players and recruits in a Louisville dormitory, a scandal that broke just before the start of the season. The NCAA is investigating.

Pitino has denied any wrongdoing and insists that his players have blocked out the distractions. They had to be focused In a back-and-forth game that was close all the way, the lead changing hands 11 times, the margin never more than eight points.

Mahmoud was in the middle of a crucial sequence with 1:01 remaining that helped the Cardinals (16-3, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) hold on.

With the scored tied at 69, the 7-foot sophomore got free under the basket for a pass from Trey Lewis. Marcus Georges-Hunt came in from behind to make the block, but he appeared to get Mahmoud with the body.

Georges-Hunt, who led the Yellow Jackets with 23 points, fouled out on the play. Mahmoud made both free throws to give Louisville a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

“Trey kept coming to me in the low post,” Mahmoud said. “He created some space for me every time he spun away from defenders.”

Georges-Hunt hopped up and down after the call, looking at the video board to check out the replay.

“I actually thought it was clean,” he said. “But I should’ve been under him already. It was just a late reaction and that cost me my last foul.”

Georgia Tech (11-8, 1-5) has lost its five ACC games by a total of 26 points.

“We’ve got to find a way to dig in deep,” said Nick Jacobs, who had 16 points. “Losing five games in the ACC, I can’t put into words how bad it is.”

After Mahmoud’s free throws, Georgia Tech struggled to get off a shot with Georges-Hunt on the bench. Tadric Jackson drove toward the lane, tried to make an awkward pass back to Adam Smith, only to have Lee step in for the steal.

The Yellow Jackets were forced to foul Quentin Snider, who made both free throws with 25.2 seconds remaining. Smith scored on a driving layup to give Georgia Tech one more chance, but Donovan Mitchell knocked down two free throws to seal the victory.

Lewis and Chinanu Onuaku had 12 points each for the Cardinals. Mitchell chipped in with 11.

Georges-Hunt carried the offensive load for the Yellow Jackets, drawing foul after foul before he fouled out. He finished 12 of 12 at the free throw line. Smith finished with 12 points.

HIGHLIGHT REEL

Overlooked after his foul at the end, Georges-Hunt had a spectacular block with about 9 minutes remaining.

Louisville appeared to be setting up for an easy basket when Mitchell swiped the ball from Travis Jorgenson in the backcourt, then found Lee all alone beneath the basket. But as Lee went up for an apparent dunk, Georges-Hunt raced back to knock it away.

“I felt like the block (on Mahmoud) was the same block,” Georges-Hunt said.

TIP-INS

Louisville: Onuaku had his sixth straight double-double, also pulling down 11 rebounds. … Lewis surpassed 1,300 points in his career during the first half. … The Cardinals shot 44.3 percent (27 of 61) from the field.

Georgia Tech: Outrebounded the Cardinals 41-33 to keep up its strong play on the boards. Jacobs and Charles Mitchell has 10 rebounds apiece. … The Yellow Jackets went with a three-guard lineup, giving Jorgenson his first start of the season in place of Quinton Stephens.

UP NEXT

Louisville: At Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

Georgia Tech: At North Carolina State on Wednesday night.

___

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

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