Rick Pitino honors senior transfers with rings, 'One Shining Moment'


Louisville coach Rick Pitino gave his departing transfers some championship-quality bling and a video tribute featuring "One Shining Moment."

Pitino had promised a surprise to honor their contributions in a season that won't include the NCAA tournament appearance they had hoped for. Surviving some tense final moments in Tuesday night's 56-53 victory over  Georgia Tech helped make that postgame ceremony especially celebratory for the 11th-ranked Cardinals.

Chinanu Onuaku made two free throws with 30.9 seconds remaining, and Damion Lee added two more with 10.7 left to end the game -- and the home portion of his one-year Cardinals stint -- on a high note.

"Shooters shoot,'' said Lee, who made just 5 of 16 from the field but all three free throws and finished with 14 points. "I pride myself on free throws. That's one thing I've done all year, actually my entire career. ... It was just another way for easy points."

And Louisville needed every one on an emotional night in which graduate transfers Lee and Trey Lewis and walk-on Dillon Avare were honored in their home finales.

Louisville overcame blowing an 11-point lead in the second half to remain in the hunt for the ACC regular-season title. The school self-imposed a postseason ban on Feb. 5 for recruiting violations found during an investigation of an escort's allegations of sex parties at the team's dormitory.

The Cardinals would have been a lock for the NCAA tournament, but the ban quickly shifted their focus to making the most of remaining games.

Pitino referenced the ban and violations in Tuesday night's ceremony, saying, "We have the most compliant coaches in the NCAA, no matter what you hear."

Lewis scored on a free throw midway through the second half, and Lee sealed the win before the ceremony, in which Louisville's departing players were recognized on the big screen. Pitino then presented Lee and Lewis with the rings and called the duo "championship people," his way of thanking them for leading the Cardinals on and off the court.

Both players were caught off guard by the gesture.

"I had no idea,'' Lee said. "I thought it was going to be a half banner [that said] half-Lee, half-Lewis. That was my creative thinking. The ring, I had no idea. I'm definitely going to wear it."

Lewis and Lee will play in the NABC College All-Star Game during Final Four weekend.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.