Ryan Kelly's return sparks Duke
It was the Ryan Kelly show at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
Kelly's return came at the perfect time as Duke was coming off a loss at Virginia less than 48 hours earlier.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski wanted to get Kelly some playing time in an important game as the team gets ready for a run in the ACC tournament and the big dance. Kelly had one of the most courageous performances that I have seen.
When I arrived to call the game, I figured Kelly would only play a few minutes. But instead of a cameo role, the senior played 32 minutes and had a career-high 36 points in a big win over a tough Miami club.
Remember, he did not play the first time these two teams met in a 90-63 loss for Duke in Coral Gables. Duke was embarrassed in that defeat, a fact not lost on the Blue Devils. They were reminded of Miami pounding the floor, semi-mocking the Dukies.
Saturday marked Kelly's first game since Jan. 8, and he came out on fire. He hit several trifectas early and spread out the Miami defense. Kelly's presence meant the Hurricane defense could not concentrate solely on Mason Plumlee inside. Suddenly there were different angles and passing lanes open, which helped the Blue Devils' offense.
Where would Duke have been if the team did not have Kelly in the lineup? Kelly has hardly practiced, yet he came out and made a huge difference on both ends of the court. He is a super outside shooter for a guy his size. Kelly is a major factor on defense, can rebound, pass and play hard.
The scene at Cameron Indoor Stadium was so intense. The ovation Kelly received when he was introduced as part of the starting lineup was incredible.
Duke does not lose back-to-back ACC games often. The last time it happened was 2009. Coming off a loss to Virginia, there was a sense of urgency and Mike Krzyzewski's team came through.
Give Miami a lot of credit. You knew that Jim Larranaga's team would not go away. They fought hard and had a shot to tie the game with a final 3-point attempt. It clanged off the iron and the Dukies as well as the Cameron Crazies were celebrating.
The ACC will be well represented by Duke and Miami come tournament time.
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