Duke Beats Up On Virginia Tech, Remains Undefeated with Ryan Kelly in the Lineup

By Jared Mintz
Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

After going for a career-high 36 points in his first game back since suffering a right foot injury back in mid January, many were wondering if Duke forward Ryan Kelly was playing on pure adrenaline in Saturday’s 79-76 win over No. 5 Miami.

Another 18 points and 9 rebounds – and 5 assists, DO NOT sleep on the ball movement – in Tuesday’s dismantling over Virginia Tech on Senior Night (which, in all fairness, is another adrenaline rush type of game but I digress) and it looks like Kelly’s playing out the infamous line he repeated after his first three of Saturday’s game.

“I still got it!”

Although the White Raven was seemingly being sort of facetious in his surprise that he could still stroke it, he’s only shooting 52 percent from trey this season, Kelly sure does still have it.

And his play doesn’t only make Duke an incredibly difficult out this season, well, it has them undefeated.

The Blue Devils were 15-0 before playing their first game without Kelly, an 84-76 loss at the hands of North Carolina State, and have now won two-straight since the 6-foot-11 senior returned. It’s just no secret, Kelly’s the perfect compliment not only for ACC Player of the Year candidate Mason Plumlee and Duke’s interior defense and rebounding, but he and Plumlee give Duke about as unique of an inside-outside tandem as any two big men in the country.

Kelly’s equally scary in terms of how deadly of a shooter he is and how much of an impact his length can be on both sides of the ball. We can’t exactly call him a five tool player in terms of having great athleticism, but Kelly’s basketball IQ mixed with his ability to get up and down the court for an almost 7-footer makes him a threat with and without the ball. As unselfish as he is accurate, if Kelly isn’t making opposing teams pay by scoring the ball, he’s taking attention away from not only Plumlee, but fellow three-point assassin Seth Curry.

Sure, Kelly showed how important he was Saturday night as he literally put Duke’s scoring load on his back, but in Tuesday’s contest, it was more of the little things that proved just how much he was missed.

Duke seems to really be a team hitting stride at the right time, and they’ll have the ACC Tournament as a final tune-up to see if they can recover from last season’s embarrassing early season exit at the hands of Lehigh.

17-0 with a healthy Ryan Kelly, I’d say they more than likely will.

For hoops, hip-hop and other random sports and pop culture commentary, follow Jared Mintz on Twitter @JaredMintzTruth

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