Adrian Branch scored 22 points to guide Maryland past William and Mary last night at Cole Field House, 56-51, then gave the perfect description of the painfully methodical Indians.

"They're the kind of team you want to run into the ground. But their style just aggravates you. You can't get your legs stretched out or get the fast breaks going."

There were few, if any, fast breaks for either team. William and Mary, not very quick, not very tall, not very talented, did what it does best: pass the ball around until the defense is lulled to sleep.

The Indians (3-4) were pretty pesky early in the game, before Maryland Coach Lefty Driesell used an officials' timeout to set the Terrapins straight with three minutes left in the first half.

"There's no telling what I said during that timeout," Driesell said later.

Branch's memory was a little better.

"What he told us was to run the offense the right way," Branch said. "The offense we were supposed to be in at that time is called the 'out.' That means for me to go from corner to corner to high post."

The Terrapins delivered Branch the ball in the proper places, and he scored six straight points to give Maryland a 26-22 lead at halftime.

With the game tied, Branch drove the right base line for a 20-18 lead. After a W&M basket, Branch drove base line left and leaned over two Indians for a 22-20 lead. After the visitors missed a shot, Branch drove the left base line: 24-20.

William and Mary kept close, and trailed by 38-36 with 11 minutes to play. But reserve guard Jeff Baxter made a long jumper, Branch four free throws after being fouled twice on base line moves, and Len Bias a short jumper. That run put Maryland ahead, 46-36.

The Terrapins (7-2) led by 12 points with 1:12 to go in this final tuneup before Saturday's Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Virginia, and Driesell figured it was a good time to take out all five starters. The reserves--Ed Farmer, Chuck Driesell, Bryan Palmer, Pete Holbert and Steve Rivers--scored two points, committed eight turnovers.

W&M capitalized, pulling within 54-51 with three seconds left on a jumper by Tony Traver, who led the Indians with 12 points as a substitute. Driesell put the starters back in, and Branch made two free throws for the final margin.

"It was starting to get real scary, wasn't it?" said Bias.

"I tried to be a nice guy and get everybody in who hadn't played," Driesell said. "They went in like we had a 30-point lead and scored only two points in two minutes. We should have won by 20. But some of that isn't their fault. You should substitute one or two at a time."

The Maryland starters played well. Ben Coleman scored 12 points, Mark Fothergill had 11 rebounds and Bias continued to show improvement on defense.

One former starter, Steve Rivers, was teary-eyed in the locker room after the game. Rivers started several games early in the season, but did not play at all against UCLA or American, and less than two minutes last night.

Rivers was asked if he had talked to Driesell about his lack of playing time. "I haven't talked to him," Rivers said. "This is crazy. I don't want to complain or say anything though. I don't want to make a scene."