Duke gets incredible boost from Ryan Kelly
by Nicole Auerbach, USA TODAY Sports
DURHAM, N.C. — This is what Duke fans hoped for, and, maybe if they were daring, imagined this in their wildest dreams.
A healthy Ryan Kelly drilling 3-pointer after 3-pointer, giving the Blue Devils a chance to beat one of the nation’s best teams.
But no one could have predicted — or even dreamt — that Kelly would have not only a career day in his return from a foot injury, but also one of the best individual performances of the season.
Kelly torched the Miami defense for 20 first-half points, going 5-for-7 from beyond the arc to keep Duke in a back-and-forth battle with the Hurricanes — then added 16 second-half points to lead No. 3 Duke past No. 7 Miami 79-76 at Cameron Indoor Stadium Saturday night. Kelly’s previous career high was 23.
“In the first half, he was so reliable it had an impact on our guys,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We started watching him because we haven’t had him for two months. We didn’t get a couple of loose balls.
“At halftime, we said, ‘OK, this is the transition we need to get used to with Ryan here.’ Obviously, we can’t expect him to get 36 points every time. But if he did that, it’d be alright.”
Kelly missed 13 games with a foot injury; in his absence, Duke suffered its only four losses of the season.
“I knew I had to come in aggressive,” Kelly said. “I didn’t get that much of a whole practice in yesterday. I was ready to go, and Coach felt I was ready to go, so I said, ‘Let’s go for it.’ “
For weeks, Blue Devils fans repeated a familiar refrain, telling anyone who’d listen that they had a different team with Kelly on the court. He’d been a key part of the early-season success, in which Duke essentially built up a No. 1 seed resume by Christmas, with wins over Louisville, Ohio State and VCU. But without Kelly, the surprising losses piled up (Maryland? Virginia??) and the team’s Final Four potential started to be questioned.
“Our résumé warrants a high ranking,” Krzyzewski said. “(Without Kelly), … [For more on No. 3 Duke gets incredible boost from Ryan Kelly, click here.]