The Cole Field House clock is down to 6:15, and 14th-ranked Villanova is making a run. Maryland's 52-40 lead with 9:33 left is now 56-54, and the Terrapins look rattled.

The sellout crowd of 14,500 is standing. Keith Gatlin bounces down court and puts up one finger. Len Bias goes to the low post. He crouches and glares at Gatlin as if to say, "Get it here, right now."

Gatlin passes to Bias, who has two men on him. He dribbles once, turns and leans into a bank shot.

Automatic. The crowd comes back to life, the tension on the Maryland bench eases and a Villanova foul-a-thon later, the Terrapins have their second victory of the weekend, 77-74.

In 38 minutes yesterday, Bias had 30 points and 13 rebounds, both career highs. He had plenty of help from Adrian Branch, with 16 points, and Gatlin, with 12 points, nine assists and only one turnover in 40 minutes.

But the one moment that stood out, the one that best explains why the Terrapins are 16-5 and in line for a possible move into the Top 20 this week, was Bias' play when the lead was down to two.

"There's a thin line between a fine player and a great player," said Villanova's Ed Pinckney, who had 29 points and 16 rebounds. "Bias crosses the line to greatness. When it was close, we knew he was going to get the ball. But what do you do to stop him? Once he gets the ball he's either going to jump over you and hit his shot or take that great first step and dunk.

"You know it's coming, they know it's coming, everyone knows it's coming. Still, you can't stop him."

It is that confidence in Bias that has put the Terrapins where they are. Playing one of the country's toughest schedules, they have lost five games by a total of 10 points.

"Where will I vote us this week?" Coach Lefty Driesell wondered, flicking ashes from a victory cigar. "Probably No. 2. Actually, I don't know, but I definitely think we deserve to be in the Top 10 with the teams we've beaten."

They probably won't make the Top 10, but they have certainly proved their worth this weekend. They routed Notre Dame and led all the way in the second half against experienced and talented Villanova.

"I think we know now that we're pretty good and that we can play with these teams," Gatlin said. "We've played a lot of good teams and had a chance to win every game. Today, we would have won by more if we had made our foul shots."

The missed foul shots didn't matter because the Terrapins had control for the last 22 minutes. Early, the Wildcats, ever-patient, took several five-point leads. One came at 23-18, after referee Dick Paparo called Driesell for a technical after the coach saw a palming violation that he was surprised Paparo missed.

Driesell demonstrated what he had seen to Paparo, jumping up and down as he did so. "I was just demonstrating," Driesell said. "He said I was making a fool out of the referees doing that. I think he calls a technical every game he works."

Gary McLain made the two-shot technical with 6:51 left in the first half. But with Pinckney on the bench with two fouls, the Terrapins rallied.

Bias, Gatlin and Jeff Adkins each made jumpers over a zone on consecutive possessions for a 26-25 lead with 4:36 left. It seesawed until the final seconds of the half when McLain missed two foul shots with three seconds left and Gatlin threw a length-of-the-court pass to Bias, who outleaped everyone and made a seven-footer at the buzzer to make it 34-31.

The lead grew steadily during the first 10 minutes of the second half as the Wildcats continued to shoot poorly (43 percent for the game).

When Bias dunked and was fouled with 9:33 left, the lead was 52-40. But Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino went to full-court pressure, increasing the tempo and getting his team back into the game.

Twice, Terry Long, in for foul-prone Derrick Lewis, threw the ball away against the pressure. The first bad pass led to a dunk by Pinckney, the second to a short base-line jumper by Dwayne McClain. That shot cut the lead to 56-54, and it was Bias-time.

"When Lenny gets that look, I know it's time to go to him," Gatlin said. "Who's going to stop him?"

Bias laughed when asked about his look. "I just feel like, when I'm playing the way I should, that I'm not going to be stopped," he said. "I don't know what the look is, but I guess the other guys know if they want the outcome to be good they should probably go to me then."

It was Branch whose 18-footer with 4:25 left made it 60-56. A moment later, after Branch missed a foul shot, Bias scored on a soft hook to make it 62-56. If there was any doubt, Bias ended it with another three-point play, following his own miss with 2:20 to go to make it 67-60.

After that, the string of fouls gave the crowd a few minutes to chant, "ACC, ACC," a reminder that both teams are aware of the Atlantic Coast Conference-Big East rivalry.

"We got in the huddle before the game and coach said to us, 'I'm tired of hearing this Big East stuff,' " Gatlin said. "He hadn't said anything all week about it. We loved it."