Maryland remained winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference tonight, duplicating an 0-3 start of eight years ago by dropping an 88-82 decision to high-flying North Carolina State.

State, ranked 16th in the nation, is 11-1 overall, has won eight straight, is 2-0 in the conference and may just drown in a flow of flowery adjectives.

State coach Norm Sloan finds one particular adjective unsettling.

"Every morning when I wake up," said Sloan, "I say to my wife, 'Don't ask me if the team is surprising. Everyone asks me that.' The answer is, No, I'm not surprised. I'm pleased."

It was primarily an inspired second-half defensive effort that forced two critical Maryland turnovers and the Wolfpack broke open a 74-74 tie and went ahead, 80-74, with 5:21 left.

Maryland struggled thereafter, trying to dismantle State's brick-wall zone defense. Maryland whiled away an entire minute before a pair of free throws cut the lead to 80-76 with 3:35 left.

The Terps, now 9-4 overall, fought to within 82-80 with 1:25 left. But State had possession of the ball, and three clutch free throws by Glenn Sudhop and Donnie Perkins spread the margin to an insurmountable 85-80 with 59 seconds left.

Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was not pleased with some of the circumstances of the loss.

"The circumstances" included a howling, insulting crowd of 12,100 at Reynolds Coliseum and, more importantly, Al King sat out the game's last 18 minutes with four fouls and what appeared to be a minor back injury.

Maryland was basically not in contention in either of its previous league losses to Duke and Wake Forest. The Terps regained their rebounding and shooting touches, but fell victim mostly to turnovers forced by State.

The Terps turned the ball over 18 times, eight of those charged to Greg Manning. State's entire team lost the ball only nine times.

For Manning, it was a bittersweet experience. Having just lost his starting point guard position to Billy Bryant, Manning came out firing in the first half, hitting six of six field goal attempts and scoring 18 of his total 20 points.

Several of his turnovers came at key times, but they were errors of the overaggressive variety, rather than the careless kind.

"The turnovers were all my fault. I was trying to penetrate and make things happen," said Manning. "We need a team leader. I'm trying to do that, but it's hard, as a freshman."

Manning's 20 points were high for both teams. Lawrence Boston added 18 for Maryland. When Boston took over King's man, Hawkeye Whitney, on defense in the second half, he held him scoreless. Whitney has scored 18 in the first half, which concluded with State leading, 48-44, after a Manning turnover foiled Maryland's efforts to eat up the last 32 seconds and take the last shot for a 46-46 tie.

Guard Tony Warren was Maryland's undoing in the second half, scoring 11 of his 17 points.

"We were better prepared for this game than any other," said Warren. "We were just playing together and having a whole lot of fun."