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Saturday February 4th

Preview: Backcourt battle will be key in UNC-Duke rivalry matchup

Sophomore RJ Davis (4) dribbles the ball at the game against Georgia Tech at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. UNC won 88-65.
Buy Photos Sophomore RJ Davis (4) dribbles the ball at the game against Georgia Tech at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. UNC won 88-65.

The decades-old Tobacco Road Rivalry has a history of producing exciting backcourt matchups, and this year’s first meeting between North Carolina and Duke is no exception.

As always, both teams have highly recruited prospects ready to duel it out in Chapel Hill on Saturday, but until then, here is a look at who to watch out for.

North Carolina: 

Caleb Love 

One of the two main leaders in the backcourt for Head Coach Hubert Davis is sophomore Caleb Love. After an up-and-down first season in Chapel Hill, Love has taken his game to the next level this year, seeing his 3-point efficiency jump from 26.6 percent to 43.2 percent. Coming into the matchup against Duke, Love is the second-leading scorer for North Carolina, averaging 15.3 points per game to go along with 3.4 assists.   

RJ Davis

RJ Davis is the other key piece in the Tar Heels’ backcourt. The sophomore from White Plains, N.Y., has also seen his game improve this year, increasing his scoring average from 8.4 to 13.7 points per game this season. 

He has also worked to increase his efficiency by over 10 percent along with raising his 3-point percentage from 32.3 to 41.9. Heading into Saturday, Davis is also averaging 3.3 assists and 4 rebounds in almost 32 minutes of action. 

D’Marco Dunn

D'Marco Dunn is a first-year who was the No. 68 player in the Class of 2022, according to 247Sports. Coming out of Westover High School in Fayetteville, the 6-foot-4-inch, 185-pound off-ball guard has seen limited action this season, averaging 5.3 minutes in 14 out of North Carolina’s 21 games thus far. 

Duke:

Jeremy Roach

Jeremy Roach, a 6-foot-2-inch and 172-pound sophomore from Leesburg, Va., is the main ball handler for the Blue Devils. A talented guard, coming out of high school as a consensus five-star recruit, Roach is averaging 8.1 points per game for Duke to go along with 3.8 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Roach is also coughing up just over one turnover per game while averaging 1.1 steals per contest on the defensive end.

In two games against the Tar Heels last season, he scored a combined 26 points and dished out eight assists.

Trevor Keels

Trevor Keels, who is the top off-ball option for the Blue Devils, is another of the many talented young players that make up this year’s Duke roster. 

After playing with Roach at St. Paul VI Catholic High School, the 6-foot-5-inch and 221-pound first-year from Clinton, Md., was also a consensus five-star prospect and has not disappointed so far this season. Coming into the matchup against the Tar Heels, Keels is averaging 11.9 points per game to go along with 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists. Keels also gets after it on the defensive end, averaging 1.9 steals in 31.4 minutes of action. 

Keels' best performance this year came in the season opener against Kentucky, when he scored 25 points and shot 10-18 from the field.

Jaylen Blakes

A 6-foot-2-inch, 208-pound point guard from Somerset, N.J., Jaylen Blakes is another young, talented option for head coach Mike Krzyzewski out of the Duke backcourt.

Rated a four-star prospect out of Blair Academy, Blakes has seen action in 12 out of the Blue Devils’ 20 games and is averaging 6.4 minutes per contest.  

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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