With season-ending injuries to Mikayla Boykin and Kyra Lambert, someone had to step up for Duke’s struggling offense. 

Despite missing three weeks with a knee injury and practicing just once during that stretch, star guard Rebecca Greenwell tried to rally to play against Miami, but just wasn’t ready. Her knee had felt fine in practice the day before, but she looked like a shell of herself on the court, scoring just four points in 32 minutes. 

Greenwell did not practice Wednesday and is once again a game-time decision Thursday against No. 3 Louisville for a cratering Blue Devil offense that has turned the ball over nearly 50 times in its last two games. No. 17 Duke has failed to score 70 points in a game since Boykin’s injury Dec. 10, and scored just 48 in the loss against the Hurricanes Sunday. With or without Greenwell, it will need to pick up the pace against a balanced Cardinals team that has both an offense and defense that rank in the top 30 in the country at 7 p.m. at the KFC Yum! Center. 

“She’s a warrior for trying to play against Miami, but she wasn’t the same at all,” Blue Devil head coach Joanne P. McCallie said. “We’re in a situation where life isn’t perfect—we have tremendous adversity. It was not so much being the road that’s on an issue. We can’t worry about anything but getting better and attacking on Thursday whether we have Becca back or not.”

Greenwell has sat two 3-pointers short of breaking Tricia Liston’s all-time school record since Nov. 30, a record she will look to shatter Thursday. McCallie also noted that the team had trouble getting its legs under it offensively with just one day off between its home game against Liberty and traveling to take on Miami, whereas the Hurricanes got an extra day. 

Duke (11-3, 0-1) will now have plenty of rest before taking on Louisville in an effort to avoid falling to 0-2 to start conference play for the first time since the 1992-93 season. It will certainly be a tough task—the Cardinals (16-0, 2-0) just tied their school record for consecutive wins with 16. 

McCallie attributed the Blue Devils recent persistent struggles with holding onto the ball in part to the influx of new players with all of the injuries, but also to the offense’s poor tempo. 

“We need to slow down on offense. We rushed too much,” McCallie said. “We didn’t screen, we didn’t wait for screens. We were trying to react to some of the trapping that they were doing rather than just slowing down a bit. What was interesting was that we didn’t make the transition from a great defensive tempo.” 

All-American guard Lexie Brown was a big part of Duke’s struggles, turning the ball over a whopping nine times despite getting eight steals. Brown was uncharacteristically quiet from deep as well, part of a 4-of-12 drought from beyond the arc in her last three games. 

The Blue Devils will look to get it going from 3-point range against a Louisville team that has few defensive weaknesses, but can be vulnerable at times against the three. The Cardinals rank No. 132 in the nation in 3-point percentage defense, something Brown, Haley Gorecki and Greenwell—if she plays—will try to exploit. 

Gorecki has stepped up with Greenwell, Boykin and Lambert out, scoring 16 against Miami and making two of Duke's three 3-pointers, and she has averaged 16.0 points per game in her last five games. 

The Cardinals have also been vulnerable when teams have forced them into foul trouble. South Dakota State came close to knocking off Louisville by forcing forward Sam Fuehring to foul out and drawing four fouls on two other players. Louisville ranks No. 224 in the country in fouls per game, something Duke will look to exploit by hitting McCallie’s goal of 25 free throws per game. 

“We’ve been trying to do that all year,” McCallie said. “Sometimes we’ve done that pretty well, but we need to do that better. But without question, we want to attack in the lane and get that blue-collar offense.”

The Blue Devils will need to keep up the intensity that they showed against Miami and all season long on the defensive end, where they will have to grapple with first-team All-ACC guard Asia Durr. The junior averages more than 20 points a game and has exploded against top competition, dropping 47 points on 29 shots against then-No. 5 Ohio State and 38 points Dec. 28 against Georgia Tech. 

A left-handed sharpshooter that excels in creating her own shot, Durr will be difficult to contain like the Blue Devils did last year to down the then-No. 8 Cardinals—Durr shot just 2-of-12 from deep. 

“We worked really hard as a team,” McCallie said. “You can’t play her one-on-one. You have to have everybody aware of where she is on the floor. This year, she’s more improved, more aggressive and more efficient. You want to make her work really hard for whatever she gets.”