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X-Factor: Roach's playmaking, 3-point shooting can help Duke men's basketball take down Wake Forest

Jeremy Roach throws a pass in Duke's win against Georgia Tech.
Jeremy Roach throws a pass in Duke's win against Georgia Tech.

Duke faces Wake Forest for the second time this season Tuesday evening, hoping to avenge its loss in December 2022. The Blue Zone is here with a key player for both teams:

Duke: Jeremy Roach

Since Roach’s return to the court from a lingering toe injury, it has been up and down for the junior guard. In Duke’s 68-66 victory against Miami Jan. 21, Roach scored 14 points while dishing out four assists. He followed this up with a poorer performance, scoring only six points while going 0-for-4 from behind the arc in a loss against Virginia Tech. The team captain was able to bounce back with a standout performance in Duke’s dominant victory versus Georgia Tech, scoring 12 points and grabbing five rebounds. All four of Roach’s field goals were 3-pointers, as he was able to capitalize on the Yellow Jackets’ zone defense. 

Roach is essential in facilitating the Blue Devil offense and will be key if Duke hopes to defeat Wake Forest. He also has the ability to stretch the floor by shooting 3-pointers, as evidenced by his performance against the Yellow Jackets. In Duke’s biggest wins this season, Roach has excelled, scoring more than 20 points in victories against Iowa and Xavier. While the improved play of the supporting cast might not require this significant of an outburst for Duke to win, Roach has the ability to impact the game in a number of facets, including with his court vision and quick hands defensively. 

In Duke’s Dec. 20 loss in Winston-Salem, N.C., to the Demon Deacons, Roach had five turnovers with two assists, his only ACC game with more turnovers than assists this season. Duke is coming off of a game where the team recorded a season-high 24 assists, and this is crucial to the Blue Devils’ success offensively.  Therefore, if Roach and Duke can move the ball successfully, they will put a lot of pressure on Wake Forest’s defense. 

Wake Forest: Cameron Hildreth 

There is no question that Tyree Appleby is one of the best point guards in the conference, and he will be a challenge for the Blue Devils. However, he certainly already has the full attention of Duke head coach Jon Scheyer after scoring 18 points in the Blue Devils’ first matchup against Wake Forest. Therefore, an X-factor in this game could be the other dynamic player in the Demon Deacon backcourt, sophomore guard Cameron Hildreth. Hildreth is one of the most improved players in the ACC, as he is the second-leading scorer for Wake Forest after only averaging 3.9 points per game a season ago. 

The 6-foot-4 guard is a tricky matchup, because Hildreth does a great job using his size to score in the lane. In addition, he is very patient in the paint and has the ability to draw fouls at an elite level. Duke’s defense is statistically very good, ranking second in the ACC and giving up only 63.2 points per game. However, defensive discipline is what hurt the Blue Devils in their first game against Wake Forest, where Duke committed 19 fouls and allowed 26 free throw attempts. The charity stripe could be a key factor in this game as well, and Hildreth attempts the second-most free throws on the team, behind only Appleby. Hildreth’s scoring is typically a decent metric for the outcome of Wake Forest games. In North Carolina’s 88-79 win against the Demon Deacons, the Worthing, England, native was held to only two points. However, during Wake Forest’s four-game ACC winning streak, Hildreth averaged 19.8 points. It will be imperative for Duke to limit Hildreth’s scoring opportunities in order to avenge its loss earlier in the season. 


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