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Jeremy Roach competed for Duke at a pivotal time in the 2022 NCAA tournament

After helping Duke recover from a four-point deficit at halftime, Jeremy Roach exploded towards the belt in the final minutes of a Sweet 16 game against Texas Tech, only to be caught by Red Raiders’ Bryson Williams mid-air. Roach angrily slapped Williams’ arm, then stood firm as the players approached, his teammates swarming around him. Wendell Moore Jr clapped when Williams was fouled and shouted, “Yeah!” when the officials stepped in between the teams.

The moment, led by Roach, is a message: this Blue Devils squad will not be cornered.

“It’s definitely a big thing,” the second-year point guard said after Duke won 78-73 on March 24 to advance to the Elite Eight. “We’re the weaker ones when we step in [the Texas Tech game]. I don’t see anyone who thinks we won this game. Everyone said we were too young and they would give us a hard time. We just wanted to show… that we belong here. “

Roach’s second-half crucial rally in the Sweet 16 win – 13 of his 15 points, eight of which came at 10:07 in the end – marked a victory over the team’s top defence. college basketball and cemented Duke’s title-winning intentions. It also proves he can be a clutch performer and be an integral part of the lineup that includes the scheduled 2022 lottery picks Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, Moore Jr. . and Mark Williams. At the most crucial moment of the final season, coach Mike Krzyzewski chose Roach to lead the starting line-up.

Duke now has the chance to retire Coach K with his sixth national championship. Saturday’s Final Four game in New Orleans against North Carolina – the first meeting between two longtime rivals in NCAA tournament history, coming nearly a month after Tar Heels beat the final game of the season Coach K’s home tournament with a win – also offers a chance to redeem it. Roach knows what that feels like.

“I had my ups and downs during my time at Duke,” he said. “But just being consistent and always confident is the most important thing. Stay committed to work. Don’t overestimate the good days, don’t get too hung up on the bad days.”

Roach’s star turn in the NCAA is far from the chaos of the past two months, when he lost his starting role in early February. This is the second time this season that he has been placed on the bench.

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Paolo Banchero hits the barrel ahead, follows with a block at the other end and then Jeremy Roach helps seal it for Duke with a 3 pointer.

The A Class of 2020 player, he had five stars next to his name in high school just like his blue-chip peers. However, in the final month of the regular season, Krzyzewski had to replace him after a cold spell (6 for 29 from 3 in eight games), and the arrival of Griffin and Keels. The move comes a month after he was briefly substituted for the first time in January, after finishing 3-8 in Duke’s 2-point loss at home to Miami.

“It gives us a great dimension,” Duke assistant Jon Scheyer said afterward of the team’s new starting lineup, replacing Roach with Griffin and a 76-64 win over Wake Forest in the game. next. “The team we put out to start the game was a big team.”

The tackle left the 6-foot-2-tall Roach uncertain about his role, and it showed on the court. When Glenn Farello – who used to coach Roach at St. Bench.

Where is the tenacious high school student who overcame an ACL injury to become a five-star player? Where was the young man who won two gold medals with the USA youth basketball team? Where was the relentless player who led his high school team to a 130-128 win in a seven-overtime game after dropping 15 points with five minutes of regulation?

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Paolo Banchero and Jeremy Roach led Duke in a 7-0 run to win and advance to the Elite Eight.

“I told him, ‘I want my Jeremy back,'” Farello said. “My Jeremy is a fierce competitor and he has a chip on his shoulder and he’s always trying to prove himself. I just think he needs one of those pep talks and a reminder. Reminds me of what he’s been through.”

The conversation with Farello – “They need you,” he told him – helped Roach regain his focus. His parents also help. And he shares a special bond with his sister, Chloe, and brother, Jordan, who stay connected through daily chats and nonstop text messages.

“Those two keep me grounded,” he said. “We text groups, we FaceTime. We use our phones quite a lot, a few hours a day, every day. I love those two. I wouldn’t be here without them. They give me the confidence to stay committed to work, be consistent and say to me, ‘Don’t worry about what other people are saying, just be you and keep believing.’ “

Roach’s roommate Mark Williams has watched his friend navigate the changes throughout the season. They talked while playing “Fortnite” and listened to hip-hop star Gunna in their apartment.

Williams talked about his “fantastic” teammate, who played a leadership role throughout Duke’s tournament.

“[Roach] can always come forward in the key moments, and so we trust him 100%,” Banchero said, after Duke’s Sweet 16 win. We have trusted him all year. “

Roach’s end-of-season impact is tangible. He is averaging 12.7 PPG, 3.7 APG and 1.2 SPG in the NCAA tournament for a team ranked top in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom. With Roach on the floor during the tournament, Duke averaged 114 points per 100 possessions, according to hooples.com. The Blue Devils took 61% of the shots in the arc and 40% of the 3-pointers with him in the game.

“Jeremy Roach’s determination was unbelievable,” Krzyzewski said after the Sweet 16 game. “His motivations against that defense were so strong, so determined.”

For Duke, Roach was the catalyst in San Francisco. A punch from Steph Curry ahead of a Texas Tech win boosted his morale. And his teammates seem to follow him wherever he goes, on and off the field.

After the Blue Devils’ Elite Eight win over Arkansas, Roach held up his phone as Moore, Keels and Williams walked beside him and laughed as he pointed to someone on the screen. It’s clear that the fun Roach fought for this season is back.

Farello phoned Roach after the win and told him he ended up looking like the player he coached in high school. His attempt in San Francisco also reminds Farello of a conversation he had with Krzyzewski during a February trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“I actually said to Coach K, ‘I appreciate you still believing in him,'” Farello said.[Krzyzewski] said, “Coach, I promise you, I’ll never stop believing in him.”

That belief brought Duke all the way to New Orleans.

https://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/33624306/jeremy-roach-come-duke-crucial-moment-2022-ncaa-tournament Jeremy Roach competed for Duke at a pivotal time in the 2022 NCAA tournament

Luke Plunkett

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