Lefty Drisell stopped coddling his young Maryland basketball team yesterday and publicly appealed to its pride.

"Mike Davis was the only one who hustled against North Carolina," Driesell said of Wednesday night's 97-70 embarrassment. "He was the only one who looked like he gave a damn."

Driesell has forgiven his team's erratic play this 15-6 season, dismissing the mistakes as those of youth. But yesterday re criticized Lawrence Boston and implied that Brad Davis' ball-handling wasn't up to par. Driesell also tried to forget, by giving his team the day off. Thursday is normally the heavy practice day for a Saturday game.

The Terps play a hot Clemson team Saturday at Cole Field House.

They're tired and they're down," Driesell said. "I thought about practicing but I don't know what I could accomplish. We just have to forger about it, I reckon. I don't know what else to day. They're not playing up to their capablities."

Driesell said forward Boston played "horibly" and that his team's inability to handle the ball was "unbelevable." Both statements are seen as a last-resort appeal to his players' pride.

"We can't let one game get us down," Driesell said. "We've gotta come back, if we can."

A week ago, Driesell talked optimistically about peaking in time for the March 3-5 Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, the winner of which gets an NCAA playoff spot. Yesterday, the subject was the NIT.

"We may not even get that," Driesell said. "We've got a long way to go."

Because of Boston's poor game - two points and no rebounds in 26 minutes - Driesell said he was still mulling who to start Saturday. James (Turk) Tillman was given a shot at starting as small forward against North Carolina, Driesell said, because Tillman earned the chance with his play in the two games following his reinstatement from a suspension for insubordination.

Brad Davis, the point guard, made nine of Maryland's season-high 29 turnovers against Carolina and Driesell, without amplificiation, simply called the Terps' ball-handling "unbelievable."

Mike O'Koren, North Carolina's standout freshman forward, thought the Terps had more talent than his team, especially inside, where the Tar Heels outrebounded Maryland, 41-30.

"We may lack nuscle," O'Koren said. "But what we lack we make up in other aspects of the game."

O'Koren pointed to his head.