No matter his role, No. 9 Duke needs a steady Jeremy Roach to be at its best

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Whether in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, Jeremy Roach is a key player in Duke’s rotation this season.

The 6-1 sophomore guard found himself in both roles, in and out and back into the starting lineup, for the Blue Devils over the past two weeks.

Despite that, he’s still played in 76.7% of the minutes in Duke’s 18 games this season. Only junior Wendell Moore (82.2%) and freshman star Paolo Banchero (77%) have played more for the Blue Devils (15-3, 5-2 ACC).

“He’s had a great attitude,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said “He’s a good kid. He’s all team.”

After two games out of the lineup, Roach became a starter once again on Saturday when Duke beat Syracuse, 79-59, at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The calf injury Duke freshman guard Trevor Keels suffered four nights earlier kept him out of uniform, so Roach stepped in. He didn’t shoot well (2 of 10, including 2 of 8 3-pointers) but led Duke with nine assists while committing just one turnover in 27 minutes, 38 seconds of play.

Duke’s Jeremy Roach (3) pressures Syracuse’s Joseph Girard III (11) during the first half of Duke’s game against Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.
Duke’s Jeremy Roach (3) pressures Syracuse’s Joseph Girard III (11) during the first half of Duke’s game against Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022.

“The shot wasn’t falling,” Roach said, “so find other guys and hit them. Let them knock them down with confidence.”

After starting 18 of 24 games as a freshman last season with the Blue Devils, Roach started the first 17 this season.

That stopped after Miami upset the Blue Devils, 76-74, on Jan. 8 at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Roach hit 3 of 8 shots and committed three of Duke’s season-high 17 turnovers. But, most notably, he fouled Miami’s Charlie Moore after the Hurricanes senior guard drove the lane to hit a layup with 34 seconds to play.

Duke was up 74-71 when that play occurred. Prior to that sequence, Krzyzewski had told the team specifically not to foul and not to allow Miami to attempt a 3-pointer.

“Our thing is no threes and no fouls in that situation and we fouled,” Krzyzewski said following the game. “We were too spread out, we wanted to be condensed and we were not.”

Moore missed the free throw but Miami secured the offensive rebound and Kameron McGusty scored what turned out to be the game-winning basket with 20 seconds to play.

Two days later, Krzyzewski and the coaching staff made the first starting lineup change of the season, elevating 6-6 freshman AJ Griffin to a starter while having Roach as a reserve. It made the Blue Devils a taller team with more scoring punch as Griffin is a 53.5% shooter this season compared to Roach’s 38%.

Roach actually responded well to the change. His minutes fell to 19 when Duke played at Wake Forest and 23 for a home game with N.C. State. But he played those 42 minutes without committing a turnover.

He scored just seven points as Duke beat Wake, 76-64, and N.C. State, 88-73.

When Keels was injured with 10:11 to play at Florida State on Jan. 18, Roach took his place. He played 29 minutes, dishing out six assists with just one turnover, as the Blue Devils lost, 79-78, in overtime.

With Keels not ready to return, Roach played steady against the Orange. In Duke’s last four games, Roach has played 98 minutes and committed only two turnovers.

Any sting from not starting didn’t appear to hurt him.

Duke’s Jeremy Roach (3) reacts as the Blue Devils run out the final seconds of the clock to secure a 76-65 victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Duke’s Jeremy Roach (3) reacts as the Blue Devils run out the final seconds of the clock to secure a 76-65 victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C.

“Just keeping your head right, keeping your confidence right to keep believing,” Roach said. “Coach takes you out of the starting lineup, you’ve just got to accept it. Coach knows what he’s doing, so he put me back in and we kept it rolling from here.”

Beginning with Tuesday’s game against Clemson, Duke plays three games in seven nights with road games at Louisville (on Saturday) and Notre Dame (on Monday) forthcoming.

Keels is doubtful to play against Clemson but is progressing and could return over the weekend.

While seeing Roach hit a few more open shots would certainly help Duke as it navigates this stretch of games, the Blue Devils don’t necessarily need him to be a big scorer. Banchero (17.9 points), Moore (15.2) and Griffin (11.9 points per game in ACC play) can handle that.

His defense, ball-handling and passing are more important to the Blue Devils. Seeing those areas thrive while he’s not hitting shots impressed Krzyzewski.

“I’m proud of him because he didn’t shoot well but it didn’t affect his defense and his passing,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s a sign of a really good player. We need him to keep doing it.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting