Kelly's Senior Night came a game early
Posted March 3, 2013
It was senior night, one game early.
Ryan Kelly turned in the kind of performance college athletes dream about – a senior leading his team to victory in dramatic fashion. And yet it happened a game before his "senior night." Kelly carries Duke over Miami, 79-76
After missing 13 games with an injured foot, Kelly proved he really was the missing link in Duke's equation – lighting up Miami for a career-high 36 points in the Blue Devils' 79-76 win over Miami.
His range helped neutralize Miami's size advantage inside. If one needs a textbook example of how Kelly's shooting ability helps open up things for Mason Plumlee in the paint, they need only look at this game.
Kelly hit seven three-pointers. Let's repeat that... seven. And while Plumlee's 12 points are certainly nothing to get excited about, he himself noted he saw very few double-teams in this game. That's a dramatic change from previous Duke games, and it could well be an indicator of things to come as Kelly's presence will require opposing teams to guard him away from the basket.
Simply put, Kelly makes Duke better – and the Miami game is the textbook example.
Mike Krzyzewski called Kelly's 36-point performance one of the best ever by a Duke player in Cameron. That's pretty high praise considering his predecessors, but consider the setting: a top-five showdown in his first game back after missing 13 with an injury. That's the stuff history is made of, and we love our history around here.
As Kelly kept scoring, the game I kept thinking of was Gene Banks' senior night against Carolina back in 1981. I watched that game on TV as a kid in Nash County, and it remains one of the great ACC moments in my mind. My seat was better for this game, and while Kelly never donned a tuxedo and never threw roses to the crowd, his performance merits Banks-like consideration.
It was the stuff of legend. Not bad for a guy unable to play one game earlier.