Looking very much like the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Duke strengthened its hold on first place today by defeating Maryland, 87-78, in wild Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke guard Jim Spanarkel scored 27 points and handed out eitht assists, center Mike Gminski added 22 points and had 14 rebounds and forward Kenny Dennard scored 13, with 11 steals.

An expected battle between Gminski and Maryland's Buck Williams, the ACC's leading rebounder, never materalized. Williams got into foul trouble early and eventually fouled out with only seven rebounds and eight points.

The Terrapins fell to 3-4 in the ACC and 14-7 overall, dropping their second straight since defeating topranked Notre Dame seven days ago.

Duke, ranked third in the Associated Press poll and fourth by United Press International, increased its record to 6-1 in the ACC and 16-3 overall with its fourth consecutive victory over the Terps.

The Blue Devils took charge for good in the first half during an incredibly quick 18-2 scoring burst that turned a one-poindt deficit into a lead of 47-32.

"It seemed like 20 seconds," Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell said.

Duke led, 51-38, at the half, but the Blue Devils made enough mistakes in the second 20 minutes to let the Terps back in the game. Maryland, however, made 22 turnovers, including two killers near the end.

Trailing by seven, 75-68, Maryland had a chance to cut the lead to five with five minutes left.

The play that materialized was power forward John Bilney driving the lane and attempting a left-handed layup. Bilney, Maryland's defensive policeman not known for his moves to the hoop, was called for traveling.

"That wasn't the shot we wanted," Bilney said. "Coach had a little talk with me about that one."

Still, the Terrapins had another excellent chance to get in contention when they had possession of the ball with 2:55 left, trailing 78-72.

This time, point guard Dutch Morley, substituting for Reggie Jackson, lost the ball trying to pass inside to Gibson.

Duke's Gene Banks, throttled offensively by Buck Williams, made a marvelous defensive play, slapping the ball over to Bob Bender.

Duke then ran off six straight points -- Spanarkel scoring through the back door, a Banks dunk follow on the break and Vince Taylor's straking three-on-two layup -- for an 84-72 lead with 1:03 left.

On a day when Maryland needed a red hot Ernest Graham, the slickshooting swingman hit just six of 15 from the field and scored 14 points.

Graham and other Maryland players were irritated with the officiating.

Duke went to the foul line 20 times and hit 15. Maryland shot only six, mkaking them all.

"Man, I mean it was terrible," Graham said. "I should have been at the line 10 times."

"It seems like every Saturday we platy someone in the top three," Driesell said, "and we played them all pretty well."

Driesell referred to Maryland's 67-66 upset of Notre Dame last Saturday and 54-53 loss to North Carolina the week before.

"We had a chance to cut the lead to five," Driesell said, "but we turned the ball over. After that stretch in the first half, we were playing catchup."

Greg Manning led Maryland in scoring with 17 points, Larry Gibson had 15 and Al King and Graham each had 14.

The most telling styatistic may have been the 22 turnovers of Maryland, which seemed unable to bring the ball upcourt.

With Duke shooting 58.1 percent, it was not a good day to be spraying the ball around.

"Boy," said Duke Coach Bill Foster, "we really did some things well out there. Dennard with steals? I thought it was a typo."

Dennard's 11 steals broke a Duke record of seven held by George Moses and Spanarkel.

Spanarkel continuted to burst out of a mid-season slump by hitting 11 of 12 from the floor and five of six from the line.

He also had eight assists to lead a Duke offense that set up 23 baskets on effective passes. The most dazzling was a basline-to-baseline hurl by Banks to Dennard for a layup during the 18-2 spurt.

During that streak Maryland was really melting. The Terps got off just four shots, made on of them and lost the ball four times.

Even the Duke crowd was at its acidtongued best. The Usual group of students wearing skin caps sat behind the balding Driesell, but one fan outdid the rest. He shaved the top of his head.

All in all, it was not a pleasant outing for the Terps, and in the gloom of the locker room, Jackson expressed displeasure at being replaced as the point guard by Morley in the second half.

"I thought I could help and I don't expect to be taken out when I'm playing well," Jackson said. "I felt that at the time I was taken out I was playing the best I had during the game. Coach told me I would get a rest and I sure did -- the rest of the game."

Jackson played 27 minutes and Morley played 17. Driesell was forced to shuffle his lineup with Willims, Gibson and Graham all in foul trouble. King and Graham picked up two fouls each in the first 5 1/2 minutes.