ATLANTA — Damion Lee had not been an effective perimeter shooter in ACC play.
The Louisville guard was shooting only 24.1 percent on 3-pointers against the first five conference opponents. All that changed on Saturday and it had a big impact on the outcome.
Lee made three 3-pointers and scored 17 points as No. 17 Louisville held on for a 75-71 win over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
“He hit two big ones in the second half, two big transition 3s,” Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory said. “When you’re taking about games like we’ve played, it comes down to, at times, players making some plays. They made a couple more than we did.”
Lee’s first trey stopped Georgia Tech’s momentum after the Yellow Jackets had built an eight-point lead and Lee trimmed it to 49-44 with 13:35 left.
His second 3-pointer put the Cardinals ahead 68-65 with 3:28 left.
Louisville wound up winning it at the line.
With the score tied 69-69 with 1:16 left, the Cardinals (16-3, 5-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference) made six straight free throws to seal their third straight victory.
“Of all the teams we’ve played, Georgia Tech’s coaching staff takes away and knows what we run offensively and defensively better than any team in the conference,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
“You always know it’s going to be a dogfight because they know what we run so well.”
Lee made 6-of-11 shots from the field to lead Louisville’s five double-digit scorers. Center Anas Mahmoud scored 15 points, including two go-ahead free throws with 1:01 left.
“Anas did a great job in making two crucial free throws and obviously Damion made a great 3 on the break,” Pitino said.
Guard Trey Lewis and center Chinanu Onuaku each scored 12 points for the Cardinals. Onuaku had a game-high 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. Center Donavan Mitchell scored 11 points.
Georgia Tech (11-8, 1-5) got 23 points and five rebounds from guard Marcus Georges-Hunt, who was 12-of-12 from the free throw line. It was the second straight 20-point game and the sixth of the season for the senior. He fouled out with 1:01 left and the Yellow Jackets managed only two more points in his absence.
“I actually thought I got (the ball) clean,” Georges-Hunt said of his final foul. “I should have been under him already. Just a late reaction and it cost me my last foul.”
Forward Nick Jacobs came off the bench to add 16 points and 10 rebounds, and guard Adam Smith scored 12 points for Georgia Tech.
Louisville led by seven points early, but Georgia Tech battled back and took the lead for the first time on a 3-pointer by guard Josh Heath with 10:28 remaining.
The Cardinals led by as many as four points before suffering a cold spell from the field. Louisville made only two of its last 13 shots and went the final 2:46 without a point.
That enabled Georgia Tech to close with a 7-0 run, punctuated by a driving three-point play by guard Tadric Jackson, and take a 39-32 lead at halftime.
Louisville opened the second half by scoring the first seven points and tied the score 39-39 when Onuaku scored on a putback. But Georgia Tech regained its composure and took a 47-41 lead with 14:15 on back-to-back baskets by Jacobs.
Louisville retook the lead with a 7-0 run, making it 59-57 with 7:09 to play. The game remained tight and Georgia Tech tied the score on two free throws from Georges-Hunt with 1:16 remaining.
“Every time you have a lapse, they take advantage of it,” Gregory said. “We lost to a very good team. I thought we played with toughness and some discipline.
“We scored 71 points but our defense just isn’t quite there where it needs to be, and they made some big plays.”
NOTES: Louisville leads the series 17-13 and has won the last four meetings. … G Travis Jorgenson of Georgia Tech got his first start of the season, taking the place of Quinton Stephens, who started the last three games. … Each team started two graduate seniors: F Damion Lee and G Trey Lewis for Louisville and F James White and G Adam Smith for Georgia Tech. .. Up next for Georgia Tech is a game at North Carolina State on Wednesday. Louisville is at Virginia Tech on Wednesday.