Early yesterday morning, in the midst of a wonderously happy victory celebration. John Holloran approached George Washington assistant coach Tom Schneider. "Damn, coach," he said. "I've never felt so good in my life."

Nor has anyone associated with George Washington basketball. From players and coaches to alumni who have lived so long in the shadow of Maryland's sports giant, for those few hours Saturday night. GW was king of the area basketball hill, generating an ecstasy most had never felt.

"Everyone has been waiting so long for us to beat Maryland in basketball," said Holloran yesterday afternoon. "People around here still can't believer it. For me, it feels like I had just eaten a fine meal. The best part comes when you sit back, put your legs up and savor every taste."

Maryland certainly has enough food for thought. Not only is Lefty Driesell wondering how Holloran could score 38 points agaist his team, but he also must concern himself with replacing injured captain Steve Sheppard, his leading scorer.

Sheppard, playing two weeks with a strained achilles tendon, had his left leg placed in a walking cast after Saturday's game. He'll be out at least 10 days. The tendon will be checked again at that time and if the results of that examination are not good, he could be sidelined as much as three weeks and could miss five ACC games.

His forward spot could be taken by freshman Bill Bryant, who has been out with a broken hand since the Clemson loss 10 days ago. Bryant will be allowed to begin practice as soon as he is fitted with a special brace, possibly today. Bryant had been starting at wing guard before being hurt.

If Bryant isn't ready by Wednesday's game against Virginia at Cole Field House, Driesell probably will start a front line of Lawrence Boston, Mike Davis and Larry Gibson, an alignment that has been ineffective the last two contests.

Maryland has lost three of its last four.

GW's major problem is to come down from cloud nine fast enough to prepare properly for a trip to William and Mary on Wednesday. But for a few hours yesterday, the Colonials preferred to reflect on what Saturday's night victory means to their program and to a scholarly guard who has emerged as one of the area's top players.

"This is what we needed, I think, to get over the recruiting hump," said Schneider, GW's main recruiter. "It might convince more local kids to stay home. And look at the exposure it gives us, to best them on television at Cole."

Already, GW can measure the upset's impact. "At halftime of the UCLA-Tennessee game, on national TV, they gave our score," said Schneider. "When was last time we got our name on national television?"

It has been 16 years since GW last discovered what it is like to beat Maryland in basketball. But this victory means considerably more to the Colonials because the Terrapins are a national power and spend far more money on their program than any other local school.

It also meant more because Holloran, one of the few area high school players lately who decided to stay home and attend GW, was the hero. Four years ago, GW and Catholic were the only schools who thought Holloran was a college - caliber player. Now, GW says it wouldn't trade him for any guard in the country.

"I always thought he was going to be a good college player," said Schneider, "but who could envision him getting 28 points one day at Maryland? I figured he was good for 14 or 15 points a game in college. He's amazed all of us."

Schneider first knew Holloran at Chevy Chase playground. "I burned his eyes out in a game one day," said Holloran, skinny ninth-grader at the time. "I hit four straight over him." Schneider wound up seeing almost every game Holloran played his senior year at St. John's smilling to himself every time because no other school seemed particularly interested in him.

"He could always shoot," said Schneider. But now he has become the complete player. Last year against Maryland, he had two points and seven turnovers in the first half and 19 points in the second. He was in and out. This year, he knows his role."

That role, simply put, is to shoot. "The other guards shoot when they are open," Holloran said. "I take the tough shots. It took me eight games this year to realize that was my role, but I'm comfortable doing it now.

The result is the performance of Saturday night: 16 of 24 from the floor, six of six from the foul line, eight assists and three steals.