by Eric Tullis
We’ve seen three versions of Ryan Kelly this year: the Ryan Kelly, who, before injuring his foot in January against Clemson, averaged 13.4 points per game and worked in tandem with Mason Plumlee’s post play and Seth Curry’s outside marksmanship; then, we had to watch Ryan Kelly hobble around on crutches for several weeks. Once he got rid of the crutches, we had to get used to the Ryan Kelly who wore a protective boot on his foot.
But none of those Ryan Kellys showed up on Saturday evening, in the Blue Devils 79-76 win over a Miami Hurricanes team that hardly looked like the same set of all-stars who flame-broiled the then-No.1 Blue Devils in late January. Coach K threw Kelly right back in Duke’s starting lineup and Kelly responded by putting on one the most amazing shooting performances in recent Duke history, scoring 36 points on 10-14 shooting.
Yeah, THAT Ryan Kelly made his return.
After the game, Coach K called it “one for the ages. He’d been calling Kelly a threat all season, but was still shocked, especially since Kelly had only practiced one time since he was cleared to return.
“Anybody who would do that would shock me, but for him to do it knowing what happened, that’s one of those things that just doesn’t happen. How did that happen? I don’t know how the hell that happened.”
Miami wingmen Durand Scott and Trey McKinney Jones locked down Seth Curry, keeping him to only one point in the first half, but while they were busy that, Kelly got reacquainted with his shooter’s touch, knocking down 5-of-7 first-half three-pointers.
Down low, butterball Reggie Jackson bumped Mason Plumlee around enough to keep Duke off of the boards and Ryan Kelly. That could have been Jason Gamble’s job, but if you watched Gamble close enough—either in the 18 minutes that he played, or his time on the bench—you might have noticed how detached Gamble was from his teammates. On the court both he and Shane Larkin were non-emotive, and during the time that Gamble sat the bench, he had his back turned to his teammates and blankly stared at the game’s action.
At will, Miami point guard Shane Larkin locomoted through Duke’s defense, and, at times, seemed to be operating at a much higher speed than the rest of his teammates. Then again, the Hurricanes only amassed seven assists throughout the whole game, oftentimes playing too disjointedly and out-of-sync. Their rapport stunk and none of Miami’s players knew where the ball was going once Larkin touched it.
But, they knew where it was going when Ryan Kelly touched it—in the bucket. They did little to fix that either. No one could have; not even NFL and University of Miami football legend, Warren Sapp, who was on-hand to cheer for his team. The last time the two teams played, he suggested that Miami slap the court to mock the Duke tradition. This time, in the middle of the second-half, Quinn Cook and Kelly gave it right back to him after Cook hit a big three to put Duke up by 10 points.
Kelly’s career-high shooting night ties Virginia’s Joe Harris’ conference-high for single-game points. Harris scored all of his points earlier this week against Duke which Kelly had to watch last week during Duke’s head-scratching 68-73 loss to Virginia earlier this week. He also went 7-for-9 three-point range—tying Wake Forest’s C.J. Harris and Maryland’s Logan Aronhalt (Maryland) ACC-high for most 3pt FGs in a game.
Next, Duke hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday for the Blue Devils’ final home game of the season (Senior Night) before the regular season’s last game—another hard rematch against the Tar Heels at the Dean Dome. Click here for the official Duke/ Miami boxcore