Duke University had played four high quality opponents before last nights loss to North Carolina State, winning those games by an average of nearly nine points a game. So why did they get handled by eight points by a team that they have had little trouble in the past? The answer is the absence of 6-11 forward Ryan Kelly and his senior leadership. Ryan injured his foot in the Blue Devils game against Clemson Tuesday.
On a team with names like Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry, a guy like Kelly sometimes gets forgotten. Coach Mike Krzyzewski runs a system oriented style of basketball. Players have specific roles and expectations they must achieve in order for the team to succeed. Coach K thrives on having players that are willing to make sacrifices, focus on the little things and be extremely efficient. Kelly, after four years in the program, is the epitome of Coach K’s style of play.
In their wins against Kentucky, Minnesota, Louisville and Ohio State, Kelly put up efficient numbers in his support role, 13.25 points on 44% from the field and 45% from behind the arc, 4.5 rebounds and 2.75 blocks per game, while also setting timely screens, having the fewest turnovers and defending the opposing teams best post player. Last night Plumlee looked to be trying to defend all of the Wolfpacks talented forwards by himself.
Junior Josh Hairston started for Kelly and had eight points with five rebounds, while freshman forward Amile Jefferson had 10 points. “We know that no team is perfect,” Hairston said. “Every team has flaws. One thing that this team is not going to do is use Ryan’s injury as an excuse. … We’re going to adjust.” Adjust quickly Blue Devils, because it may not be an excuse but the absence of Kelly was definitely the reason for your loss last night.