Kelly scores 36 in triumphant return for DukeBy The Sports Xchange | The SportsXchange – Sat, Mar 2, 2013 9:30 PM EST
DURHAM, N.C. -- Getting Ryan Kelly back in the lineup was just part of the thrill for Duke. He turned in one of the most remarkable performances in Duke history Saturday night. Kelly scored a career-high 36 points in a return from an injury that sidelined him for nearly two months as the third-ranked Blue Devils upended fifth-ranked Miami 79-76 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. "One of the all-time Duke performances and, considering the circumstances, certainly one of the best," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "What a game. So happy for my team, so happy for Ryan." The outcome delayed Miami's bid for its first outright Atlantic Coast Conference title and left Duke in contention for a share of the championship with a week remaining in the regular season. Kelly, a senior forward, gave Duke a 58-56 lead on a 3-pointer with more than nine minutes to play. By then, the game was clearly about him. "It was a fun one, a great win for our team," Kelly said. "My teammates, they welcomed me back with open arms and they appreciate what I can do." Kelly made 10 of 14 shots from the field, including seven 3-pointers. He did this in 32 minutes. "Imagine if we played him 40," Krzyzewski said. "I hope he goes for 36 every night. The fact is, he's a threat." Kelly, who hadn't played since early January because of a foot injury, was in the starting lineup for the Blue Devils. He took Duke's first shot of the game (and missed) and then connected on a 3-point shot on his next attempt. "I made myself believe (I could make an impact)," Kelly said. Duke teammate Mason Plumlee, who scored 12 points, said he didn't think it would be a difficult transition for Kelly. He was right. Duke (25-4, 12-4 ACC) was determined to wipe away the memory of a 27-point loss Jan. 23 at Miami. Miami (23-5, 14-2), aiming to match the school record for victories at 24, led throughout most of the first half, but Kelly was just too much. Larkin led the Hurricanes with 25 points and Kenny Kadji had 17. "Our big guys around the basket had some opportunities and didn't finish," said Miami coach Jim Larranaga, who pointed out it was necessary to "focus all our energies on the defensive end of the court because Duke is a great offensive team." Leading 68-65, the Blue Devils strung together seven straight points -- the first four by Rasheed Sulaimon. The 10-point lead nearly vanished as Trey McKinney Jones hit a 3-pointer to close Miami within 78-75 with slightly more than a minute left. A turnover and one free throw from Shane Larkin narrowed the cap to 78-76 with 53.6 seconds remaining. Duke's Seth Curry made the first of two free throws at the 21-second mark. Miami had two launches in an attempt to tie in the last seven seconds, with Rion Brown's shot from the left corner bouncing away at the buzzer. Quinn Cook scored 15 points for Duke. The Blue Devils posted a 9-4 record during Kelly's absence. He improved his scoring average to 14.8 points per game, third best on the team. Miami, which has lost two of its last three games, remains in good shape to secure the ACC title because it needs only one more victory. The Hurricanes have home games remaining against Georgia Tech and Clemson. After losing Thursday night at Virginia, Duke was in danger of falling out of sole possession of second place in the conference by the end of the weekend if it lost. "Once Duke loses, we expect to win our next game," Kelly said. The Blue Devils face Virginia Tech at home before visiting North Carolina next Saturday night. Duke, which reached 25 wins for the sixth season in a row, is 15-0 at home. Kelly's return created the biggest buzz in the first half, and he made his presence felt by scoring 20 points. But Miami led 36-34 at halftime, staying ahead for most of the half. The Blue Devils snatched the lead briefly at 33-31 before Miami converted on late possessions. By halftime, Kelly was 5 of 7 on 3-pointers and 7 of 10 from the field. The rest of the Blue Devils were a combined 6 of 17. For the past couple of weeks, the likelihood of Kelly returning was apparent, though there hadn't been a timetable. He was in uniform and didn't play two nights earlier in a loss at Virginia. With Kelly back, it sent forward Josh Hairston to a reserve role. Of bigger concern for Duke was Curry, who was scoreless on 0-of-10 shooting from the field in January's game at Miami. Curry scored one first-half point on his way to seven points Saturday night. Miami did some good work around the basket in the first half, but center Reggie Johnson, who didn't score in the game, struggled on 0-of-5 shooting from the field as the Hurricanes were unable to build much of a gap. NOTES: Miami clinched the top seed for the ACC Tournament in Greensboro with more than a week remaining in the regular season after Duke lost Thursday night at Virginia. The Hurricanes have never won the tournament. ... Krzyzewski won his 400th game in ACC regular-season or tournament competition. ... Miami senior forward Julian Gamble made his final appearance in his hometown of Durham. He scored five points. ... Duke has a five-game win streak against top-5 teams with, before beating Miami, three of those (vs. Kentucky, Louisville and Ohio State) coming this season. ... Miami's first victory at Cameron Indoor Stadium came last year in overtime. ... Duke will hold Senior Night in its next game when Virginia Tech visits Tuesday night.
1 - 4 of 20
Yahoo! Sports slideshows
1 - 4 of 25