Notre Dame can take your hopes away in a flash. 

The Blue Devils learned that the hard way last season, getting their feet knocked out from under them by a third-quarter run and getting blown past on the fast break. And it came at the worst possible time—the ACC championship. 

This time around, 19th-ranked Duke will look to avoid playing a game in transition against the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish Sunday at 1 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils' elite defense squares off against Notre Dame’s high-flying offense in an intriguing clash of styles. 

“I don’t know about slowing it down, but one or two passes isn’t going to cut it,” Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “You’ve got to move the ball and generate energy. And like I said, get them to play defense, because they’re a better transition team than us. We don’t want an up-and-down game. That would not serve us well.”

The Blue Devils are fresh off a game Thursday against a similar style of opponent—Georgia Tech—which owned them in transition but failed to come away with a win. Duke will have to turn the ball over less to keep a much bigger and more talented Notre Dame team from rushing past them before it knows it. 

The Fighting Irish lean heavily on a towering forward duo of Jessica Shepard and Kathyrn Westbeld, who have been dominant on the glass to help give them one of the best rebounding margins in the country. 

“We’ve really got to take care of them in the paint,” McCallie said. “Those post players really work well together in the paint. We’ve got to work hard together and stay focused for 40 minutes.”

Duke didn’t play a complete game against the Yellow Jackets, slipping up in the third quarter to let them get back into the game. During that stretch, star guard Rebecca Greenwell sat, leaving an already cobbled-together lineup looking even less conventional. 

Sharpshooter Haley Gorecki missed Thursday’s game while nursing a left hip injury and still remains day-to-day after not practicing Friday—potentially leaving the Blue Devils with a much bigger lineup than usual. 

Bego Faz Davalos, Erin Mathias and Jade Williams rounded up a post-heavy starting lineup that played together for the first time alongside Brown and Greenwell Thursday. Williams in particular broke out, setting a career high in scoring and nearly notching a double-double. 

“Jade applied herself and played more aggressive,” McCallie said. “She’s capable of doing those kinds of things. She’s continuing to learn how to play more aggressive.”

With Williams and the two other posts in the game, the lineup was physical, but underperformed on the boards, something it cannot afford to do Sunday. 

“That lineup does a nice job trying to occupy the paint and play physical,” McCallie said. “But we can do a better job of rebounding. I like our length and I liked how we used it effectively defensively. The points in the paint were the difference in the game and will be really important Sunday.”

Brown and Greenwell also will need to get more involved than they were against the Fighting Irish last year—both struggled from the field and with turnovers. 

Notre Dame has struggled on defense this year and has been particularly vulnerable from beyond the arc—where Duke's biggest offensive strength lies. In their lone losses to Connecticut and Louisville, the Fighting Irish were torched from long range. 

McCallie stopped short of saying that the Blue Devils will try to specifically exploit this weakness, instead saying they will need to look to avoid turnovers. 

“It’s hard to control what you do offensively. You have to read the game,” McCallie said. “The thing for us will be to really execute and play possession basketball. You don’t want live-ball turnovers. You want to shoot in rhythm. Super quick shots will only fuel their transition. Some of the best transition defense we can do is fantastic shot selection.”