Ryan Kelly, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Kelly.
That’s pretty much all that you’re going to be reading about after Duke’s 6-foot-11 senior somehow managed to shake off the 53 days he went without playing a basketball game to score 36 points and hit seven threes as the No. 3 Blue Devils hung on to beat No. 5 Miami in Durham, 79-76.
But how about this: Duke, the best team in the country before Kelly, reinjured that pesky right foot, needed to get a fantastic-yet-fluky, 36-point performance out of Kelly to knock off the Hurricanes in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Even with those 36 points, Miami had two decent looks at a three on their final possession that would have tied up the ball-game.
So while the Hurricanes may have lost two of their last three games, and while losses to the likes of Florida-Gulf Coast, Indiana State and Wake Forest all-but ensure that Miami will find themselves as a lower seed in the NCAA tournament than Duke, this is still a very, very good basketball team. Don’t let those losses — or the argument that Miami beat Duke without Kelly and beat North Carolina before they went to their four-guard lineup — sway you.
At the end of the day, there are really two reasons that Duke won this game: Kelly, and Reggie Johnson playing as poorly as Kelly played well.
Johnson went 0-5 from the floor in 17 minutes, picking up as many fouls (four) and turnovers (one) as he had rebounds (five). Miami was up five with the momentum when Johnson failed to get back on defense arguing a foul call, a play that left Kelly open from three and sparked a streak of three-straight possessions where Kelly hit a three. Miami was down three in the second half when he had a pass from Larkin go through his hands when wide-open in the paint twice in the span of a minute, which allowed the Blue Devils to push their lead to seven.
Losses happen, especially on the road in league play.
Miami is still going to win the ACC regular season title. They are still going to to have a top two seed in the NCAA tournament. They’re still very much a Final Four and national title threat.
If anything, this game taught us that we all should hope for Miami and Duke playing for a third time in the ACC title.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.