Duke 79, Miami 76

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke's Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 36 points in an incredible return from an injury that sidelined for nearly two months as the third-ranked Blue Devils upended fifth-ranked Miami 79-76 on Saturday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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.
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.
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.
Quinn Cook scored 15 points for Duke.
The Blue Devils posted a 9-4 record during Kelly's absence.
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.
Duke was in danger of losing sole possession of second place in the conference by the end of the weekend if it lost. 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.
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 he connected on a 3-point shot on his next attempt.
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 Saturday night.
Miami did some good work around the basket in the first half, but center Reggie Johnson struggled on 0-of-5 shooting from the field as the Hurricanes were unable to build much of a gap.
Miami's Durand Scott had a solid first half with eight points, though he departed for a stretch with an injury.
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. ... Miami senior forward Julian Gamble made his final appearance in his hometown of Durham. ... Duke entered the game with a four-game win streak against top-5 teams with 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.

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