Mar 28, 2013, 2:21 PM EDT
Ryan Kelly may have had the most talked-about foot in all of college basketball this season.
When he went down with a right foot injury in January, it became one of the biggest stories in the country. Duke, at the time, was playing as well as anyone, and Kelly was a huge reason for that. And when he exploded back onto the scene with 36 points and seven threes in a win over Miami, the consensus was that Kelly’s return had once again turned Duke into a favorite to win the national title.
We all accepted that as fact, and have since ignored a disturbing trend from the 6-foot-11 senior: he hasn’t been able to shoot since that game.
Kelly went 10-14 from the floor and 7-9 from three against Miami. And in the Blue Devils’ next game, an 85-57 win over Virginia Tech, Kelly finished with 18 points on 6-12 shooting, hitting just 2-7 from three.
In the four games since? Kelly’s averaged just 6.3 points and 4.0 boards while shooting 8-28 (28.2%) from the floor and 0-10 from three. He went 0-6 from three in Duke’s loss to Maryland in the ACC tournament and finished with just a single point in a win over Creighton in the round of 32.
It gets worse.
As this shot chart from Luke Winn indicates, Kelly is just 3-13 from two-point range on shots that weren’t right at the rim since the Miami game. Do the math, and Kelly has gone 5-30 on jump shots since his 36 point performance against the Hurricanes.
That’s bad news because Kelly’s shot-making ability is the reason he’s so valuable for the Blue Devils. It forces opposing defenses to either gamble on defending Mason Plumlee 1-on-1 in the post or risk leaving open one of Duke’s knockdown shooters on the perimeter.
His ability to defend is just as important as his contributions on the offensive end of the floor, so even on an off-night, Kelly’s a valuable piece for Duke. But if he doesn’t snap out of his funk, Duke will have a tough time with Michigan State on Friday night.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
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