Three beads of sweat ran a fast break down his cheek as Quintin Dailey shook his head, trying to describe the trauma of being on the defensive as the public plays four corners with his dignity.

"It's hard for someone to know what I am going through. I get it from all angles," said Dailey, the 21-year-old junior guard of the University of San Francisco, after practice today. "The hardest thing is being able to face people and keep my head up. I know what they are thinking. It's tough."

Two weeks ago, Dailey pleaded innocent to five charges that he sexually assaulted a USF nursing student in her dormitory room Dec. 21. He is free on $5,000 bail and a local judge has placed an order prohibiting out-of-court discussion of the case until the pretrial hearing on March 22. The actual trial is not expected to begin until 45 to 60 days after that.

According to local reports, the victim told police her attacker in the early morning hours had been drinking, stayed in her room for nearly three hours, passed out several times, made sexual advances and spoke of his basketball exploits. She identified the attacker as Dailey.

Later, a resident adviser in the dormitory, saw the victim leave her room, upset, then saw a black man flee down the hall and out the third floor fire escape. The adviser, Charles Reynes, according to reports, chased the man several blocks, getting within several feet of him.

Reynes was quoted in The San Francisco Examiner as saying he had 20-100 vision and was not wearing his glasses during the chase. He told the Chronicle, "I know Quintin Dailey and I didn't recognize him. In my mind, I did not see it was Quintin Dailey."

Attorney George Walker entered the case Feb. 16 at the request of baseball player Reggie Jackson, a longtime friend of Dailey and the uncle of Dailey's girlfriend. "People have said bad things about Reggie, but he has done me a lot of justice," Dailey said.

There was a Richter scale-type shock when Dailey went from the basketball court to the municipal court, from the sports page to the front page.

This season he has averaged 25.1 points per game and has shot 55 percent from the field. Those at this Jesuit school of 7,000 figured that Quintin was short for quintessential and that he followed in the same USF link of limelight from Bill Russell to Bill Cartwright.

Friday night, USF will play Boston College in a first-round game in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Dallas. Dailey knows a magnifying glass will be on his every move.

"I don't fear any spotlight," he said. "People can criticize me and say bad things. But I'm going to stay happy and smile. That's the way I am. This will all work out."

He is used to being watched, especially by the clipboard types. College recruiters and NBA scouts have forever kept a Dailey check. He is the leading scorer in Maryland prep history from his days at Baltimore's Cardinal Gibbons High.

In three years at San Francisco, he has averaged 20.2 points per game and a 55.7 percent field goal average, winning the West Coast Athletic Conference's most valuable player award the last two years and, in 1980, its freshman of the year award.

He always has represented a certain quality. That's why there has been shock here over the sexual assult charge. Said USF's 7-foot senior center Wallace Bryant, "Quintin has done so much for the state of California. Then the media and the courts and everybody come down on him. They have turned him into a criminal."

When he averaged 22.4 points per game last year and did not make all-America, Dailey said simply, "They forgot me." This year, Dailey was named all-America by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, but when the selection committee heard of the charges, he was taken off the team. Only after much debate and a reported lawsuit threat by Walker was Dailey returned to the all-America team.

Meanwhile, the local shock has turned to support. The 6-foot-3, 180-pound player known as "Q" stayed in his dorm room during the 96-73 win over Loyola the night of his arraignment. "I need to sit down and think things out," he said.

Dailey returned the following night for the WCAC championship game against Pepperdine--with a shaved head. He said of his conspicuous return, "I always get a haircut before a big game." He also returned to a standing ovation in Memorial Gym and a banner that read: "We Love You Quintin!"

The banner still stands. It is as warm as the memory of Dailey that evening scoring 42 points, one shy of Cartwright's school record. USF, however, lost, 106-100.

USF Coach Pete Barry said, "That night Quintin was determined. He played with a tremendous force. The crowd reaction was absolutely astounding. They stood and cheered. Yes, I applauded, too. I felt such compassion."

Barry said of the strain and stain of the charges, "Quintin Dailey is a quality name. This should not be associated with him."

In the conference-ending victory over Santa Clara, Dailey scored 27.

Senior guard and team captain Ken McAlister said of Dailey, "When he came back it was business as usual: 42 one night, 27 the next."

Dailey, who is considering an early move to the pros, said the only time of more extreme personal trouble was in 1977 when his mother and father died within a month.

"If I had my parents to relate to now, this would all be so much easier. I can't really talk about this with my three brothers," he said.

Then Dailey, who so far has followed precisely his self-mandate of smile and be happy amid the accusations, smiled again. He said, "I've just got to keep maintaining. I have to separate my personal life from basketball. Right now, I have to take my team as far as I can take it. All the glory is at the end."