There was no storming the court in Durham, N.C., where the Duke Blue Devils outlasted the Miami Hurricanes Saturday afternoon. That’s in part because coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t like it and also because Duke fans are used to the Blue Devils winning.
This game was all about the impressive performance of Ryan Kelly, who scored a career-high 36 points in his return from a foot injury that had sidelined him since January. Kelly waited two months for the chance to help his team reclaim the form they were in when they were ranked number one. He also was ready to give a little payback to the Hurricanes, who beat them the last time these two teams battled it out.
Kelly filled a significant void at power forward, a spot the Blue Devils had been lacking since Jan. 12 against NC State. He played with a determination and passion that the Blue Devils have been lacking on the court. His performance today can be out up there as one of the best performances of his college career.
“I guess I was ready for it. That’s all I can say. I just knew I was going to play my hardest. Honestly, though, more than anything it was just going to be whether I could hold up with my breathing. I haven’t played any games in a long time, and being in a game is a lot different from being in practice or anything you can do. But I think I held up all right,” he said.
He was certainly ready to get back to action and played his hardest, especially against these Hurricanes. He knocked down 10-of-14 shots, including 7-of-9 3-pointers.
Coach Krzyzewski was very thrilled about Kelly’s performance tonight.
“One for the ages. Probably as good a performance as any player has had — a Duke player has had — in Cameron,” he said.
The Hurricanes led most of the game until the final 3 minute when Duke took control of the game and had a 10-point lead with 1:55 left. But the Hurricanes (23-5, 14-2) made a frantic rally and missed two threes in the final seconds to tie it.
“This is the type of game that everybody lives for,” said Durand Scott, who scored 12 for the Hurricanes. “You can’t really get mad at this. We went out there, we played our hardest, we’re proud of ourselves, and our team did the best that we could. We just fell short a 3.”
Not only did Scott have a great game for the Hurricanes, but so did Shane Larkin. Larkin scored 25 points to lead Miami while Kenny Kadji added 17 points and 10 rebounds. Now the Hurricanes are still on top of the ACC and can win its first ACC crown outright by beating either Georgia Tech or Clemson at home this week.
For Duke, they showed everyone why they were ranked number one at one point this season and have some momentum going into March with the NCAA tourney just around the corner.