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Kelly's return makes visit to Duke even tougher for Virginia Tech
The Blue Devils are 16-0 this season with Ryan Kelly, who scored 36 points in his return to the lineup Saturday against Miami.
Duke’s Ryan Kelly (left) shoots against Miami’s Julian Gamble on Saturday. Kelly scored 36 points and nailed seven 3-pointers in the 79-76 win.
Duke’s Ryan Kelly (left) battles Miami’s Julian Gamble for the ball Saturday. Kelly averages 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks, while shooting 56.1 percent from 3-point range.
Blue Devils fans have plenty to cheer about since the return of Ryan Kelly.
Duke's Ryan Kelly (34) drives to the basket against Miami's Shane Larkin on Saturday. The Blue Devils host Virginia Tech Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Last weekend provided a reminder of just how valuable Ryan Kelly is to Duke — and a warning of just how dangerous the Blue Devils could be the rest of the season.
After missing 13 games with an injured foot, Kelly scored 36 points and sank seven 3-pointers to lead the Blue Devils past ACC front-runner Miami 79-76 at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday.
“I’ve seen some exceptional performances by my players over the last 33 years, … but nobody had a performance like Ryan, considering the fact that he was out for 51 days and really practiced part of one practice,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said Monday on the ACC coaches’ teleconference. “It’s one of a kind — just in awe of what he did.”
Kelly had not played since Jan. 8. All four of Duke’s losses occurred while the senior power forward was sidelined.
“No one really took Ryan’s position at the level that he had played it before,” Krzyzewski said. “He impacts the game in every way, and that’s why losing him for 13 games was such a significant loss.”
With the victory over Miami, the third-ranked Blue Devils improved to 16-0 with Kelly in the lineup this season, including November wins over Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville and Ohio State.
Duke (25-4, 12-4), which hosts Virginia Tech tonight, is now a serious threat to win the ACC tournament and reach the Final Four.
Kelly rejoins a potent lineup that includes forward Mason Plumlee and guards Seth Curry, Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon.
“He stretches the defense and how you defend the pick-and-roll with Ryan, whether he’s involved in it or not,” Krzyzewski said. “You have to cover him, so when he has the ball, it creates more space.
“Ryan, Mason and Seth have very good complementary offensive skills, and that’s why when Ryan was out, the performances of Seth and Mason were even more exceptional because they didn’t have the spacing — you could game-plan against them even better.”
The 6-foot-11 Kelly, who was named the ACC player of the week Monday, averages 14.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. He is shooting 56.1 percent (32 of 57) from 3-point range.
“With him being able to shoot the 3 from deep, that opens things up for drives with Cook and Sulaimon and Curry,” Tech coach James Johnson said. “It opens things up for Plumlee inside [because] … you’ve got to guard him [Kelly] out to 23, 24 feet. It makes them a lot better.”
Tech power forwards C.J. Barksdale and Marshall Wood will try to defend Kelly tonight. Center Cadarian Raines might also handle the task if Tech plays Raines and reserve center Joey van Zegeren together.
There will still be a period of transition offensively as the Blue Devils get used to playing with Kelly again and to the increased spacing on the court, said Krzyzewski.
“Can we become really comfortable with him being back during these next couple weeks … and get back to the level that we were at when we had him on a continuous basis?” Krzyzewski said.
Krzyzewski said Kelly’s absence had an even bigger effect on Duke’s defense than on the offense.
“He’s guarded outstanding players, and when he’s guarded them, they have always scored less than their average,” Krzyzewski said.
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