Kelly returns with 36 points, leads No. 3 Duke by No. 5 Miami
Good thing Ryan Kelly did play. No. 3 Duke would have been in trouble. Again.
Kelly returned to the delight of an electric Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd Saturday night, scoring a career-high 36 points to spark the Blue Devils to a 79-76 victory over No. 5 Miami.
“I just wanted to win,” Kelly said. “I was tired at times, but I kept on going.”
The Hurricanes (23-5, 14-2 ACC) had defeated then-No. 1 Duke 90-63 just over five weeks ago in Coral Gables, Fla., and the Blue Devils (25-4, 12-4 ACC) were coming off a humbling loss at Virginia two nights earlier.
Kelly had not played since halftime of a blowout win over Clemson here Jan. 8, missing 13 games. He showed no rust, and Duke stayed unbeaten with him in the lineup.
In fact, if Kelly hadn’t been pouring in 20 first-half points, Duke likely would have trailed by more than a deuce at intermission. Instead, Kelly gave Hurricanes’ head coach Jim Larranaga headaches aplenty and provided a measure of answer for Miami’s perimeter edge.
Kelly was 10-for-14 from the floor, including 7-for-9 from 3-point range.
“I got a whole practice yesterday, and I felt ready to go,” Kelly said.
At one point, he drained a 3-pointer and gave a Michael Jordan-like shrug.
“They were going in today,” he said of the moment.
Duke surged with about eight minutes to go, built a 10-point lead, then withstood two Miami opportunities. The Hurricanes were thwarted by a Kelly steal after getting the ball down two with 47 seconds left; then missed two 3-pointers on a final possession.
“He guards well, he boxes well, and he’s an experienced player,” said senior Mason Plumlee. “Just having him back was so uplifting. I didn’t know until yesterday he was going to play.”
“I thought we prepared for Ryan Kelly, but not that Ryan Kelly,” Larranaga said.
Sophomore point guard Shane Larkin and senior guard Durand Scott consistently found high screens and driving lanes, pressuring Duke at the rim with beefy Reggie Johnson (6-foot-10, 290 pounds), Julian Gamble (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) and Kenny Kadji (6-foot-11, 242 pounds).
The Blue Devils were challenged greatly by Miami’s physical presence.
When Kelly’s 29th point fell on a 3-pointer with just over nine minutes, Duke took the lead for good.
Kelly showed his defensive skills as well, stealing a pass just under the four-minute mark intended for Johnson inside. A minute later, Rasheed Sulaimon shook off his freshman-faced look with a scoring drive down the lane, then picked a pass and scored with the left hand on the fastbreak.
Quinn Cook added 15 points and five assists and Plumlee scored 12 points.
Larkin led Miami with 25 points, Kadji had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Scott and Trey McKinney-Jones had 12 each.
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