Led by surging ACC Player of the Week Lexie Brown, the Blue Devils seem to be peaking at the right time heading into the heart of conference play. Before earning a commanding road win against Boston College Sunday, Duke notched its fourth victory against a top-20 team, dispatching then-No. 17 Virginia Tech Thursday.

But to prove that it can contend at the highest level, Duke needs to do something it hasn't in two years—beat a ranked team on the road. 

The No. 14 Blue Devils will look to end their 11-game losing streak to Notre Dame—including seven losses the last three years as ACC foes—when they take on the No. 8 Fighting Irish Thursday at 7 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. Although Notre Dame has dominated the ACC since joining in 2013, winning the last three conference championships, both teams enter the matchup with three losses on the season and are in search of another top-15 win.

But to stay with the Fighting Irish Thursday, Duke will have to do something it failed to in road losses to then-No. 6 Florida State and then-No. 23 N.C. State earlier this month—execute offensively. 

“We’re trying to figure out how we can contend for 40 minutes in both halves—it’s the time of the year to do that. We’re getting to the end of January,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said of her team’s road play. “We’re looking for great poise on the offensive and defensive ends, and so we head out Thursday with another opportunity to do that, to play our game and to control the tempo better than we have.“

In Duke’s two most recent losses, the Blue Devils combined to total just 14 assists against 34 turnovers, scoring just 48.5 points per game. Including the Jan. 12 victory against North Carolina sandwiched between the two losses, Duke’s star guards Brown and Rebecca Greenwell made just 4-of-31 attempts from beyond the arc.

But in the last two games, the Blue Devils (17-3, 5-2 in the ACC) have looked more comfortable moving the ball more and taking what defenses present. Brown scored 51 points in the two contests on just more than 60 percent shooting, and Duke used a 34-2 run to put away Boston College as a patient offense and suffocating defense came together for McCallie's team. 

“We took a huge step relative to dictating the tempo and dictating the game because we slowed down,” McCallie said. “Ironically, we slowed down and got better results on offense, and then were able to speed up once we got them off balance, and get in attack mode with our press….That’s a good example for us, one we can take on the road to Notre Dame.”

After upsetting then-No. 3 South Carolina at home in December, the Blue Devils will take on a team that many thought would cruise to the Final Four entering the season in Notre Dame (18-3, 6-1). Averaging just two and a half rebounds shy of a double-double, star forward Brianna Turner anchors an elite Fighting Irish offense inside by averaging 14.7 points per game thanks to her athleticism and precise footwork in the post. To boot, Turner has been strong on defense, leading the ACC in blocks.

Coupled with sharpshooting guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey, who both shoot 40.0 percent or higher from beyond the arc, Turner and company give Notre Dame point guard Lindsay Allen plenty of finishers to find on the offensive end. Allen is one of the premier floor generals in the country, averaging 7.3 assists per contest and posting a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio. 

Although the Blue Devil offense has been inconsistent away from home, Duke's combination of matchup zone and man-to-man defense has typically kept the team afloat. The Blue Devils lead the ACC in field goal percentage defense, but will face perhaps their biggest challenge of the season Thursday night. 

“We love to have our defense tested, and no doubt it will be,” McCallie said. “The press around the ball — that’s the key. And pressing the ball in the right way. You can’t overplay [Allen] too much because she’s quick, you got to give her a little bit of room there. We’re excited to see what our defense can do against them.”