If one more person with a microphone or notebook had asked him about victory No. 500 around the dinner hour, Lefty Driesell surely would have done something nasty. Such as straighten his tie.

Driesell doesn't always fix his tie quite the way most of us do. Instead of clutching the knot right away, Driesell sometimes places his thumb and index finger at opposite sides of his throat.

You never can tell when a tie might suddenly decide it had seen enough of a basketball game and dash 90 degrees around a man's neck.

Anyway, Driesell fooled just about all the eyes in Cameron Indoor Stadium, including the two that counted most: official John Moreau's.

Most of us -- the dummies -- thought Driesell was giving Moreau the choke sign for calling a technical foul on Len Bias with 72 seconds left and Maryland down four points to Duke.

We made this mistake because Driesell pointed and shouted to attract Moreau's attention before grabbing his thro . . . er, tie.

Moreau nailed him with a technical.

Later, Moreau probably would have reacted to Driesell's explanation about the tie the same as the rest of us: sure was a funny time to signal, "Hey, I got this new way of fixin' my tie and I'll bust a gut if you don't watch."

Poor Moreau thought the tie was fine; it was Lefty's mind that needed straightening.

This is because there had been a timeout between the time Johnny Dawkins made two free throws for the Bias technical and the T Moreau hung on Driesell.

Had Driesell thought about straightening his tie the entire timeout?

"Yeah," he snapped. "I straighten it a lot."

Even before the Bias technical, it seemed likely the Terrapins would not beat the fifth-ranked Blue Devils; the four free throws on the two technicals simply made that all but certain.

The reason Duke seemed safe with that four-point cushion before the technical difficulties is because, ironically, Maryland had not fouled enough the second half.

In a physical, though hardly ugly, final 20 minutes, the Terrapins had been charged with just four fouls before Bias was caught hitting Danny Meagher while both were on the floor.

This means that Maryland would have had to chase the quick Blue Devils three times for valuable seconds just to send them to the line for the hoped-for miss.

The 45-second clock would have been reset after each foul before the seventh. So Duke would have had to almost work to lose -- before Bias and Driesell made it easy.

The call on Bias also seemed reasonable. Meagher is a pest, and capable of fakery that would draw Academy Award consideration; replays indicated that Bias elbowed him -- and also did not protest when Moreau made the call.

Meagher is like the other Duke players; you can't believe they actually are good enough to win more than a few games, let along walk with Patrick's pals and the other elite teams.

Look at the little Devils as they come bounding on the court. Dawkins is thin enough to dash through a locked door. The other guard, Tommy Amaker, has the face of a kid who ought to be sliding choo-choo trains through a sandbox.

The center, Jay Bilas, is a misplaced forward -- and a small one at that. Mark Alarie resembles a tennis pro at a ritzy club, Meagher a Little League catcher who'd block the plate against his grandmother.

Inside the body of the choirboy coach beats the temperament of a tiger. North Carolina's Dean Smith still may be the ACC's ultimate competitor, but Mike Krzyzewski is closing fast.

All these innocent-looking little Devils do is steal you blind when they can. Parasites are stickier than the Devils when they hitch up their trunks and dash into that overplaying defense.

The Terrapins are at a disadvantage long before tipoff; anybody with half a mind can see those Maryland guys are wonderful athletes.

If a coach could order the ideal basketball body, it would come stamped "Bias." The shooting guard, Adrian Branch, is taller than the center, Derrick Lewis.

Keith Gatlin was born to lead a fast break, except that Maryland does not rebound all that well and Driesell seems to prefer that his lead guards rarely shift out of second gear.

What happened today happens most of the time: Duke seems inferior; it plays better.

Who was the Devils' leading rebounder when they trotted off the court at halftime with a four-point lead?

The 6-foot Amaker.

At game's end, Amaker had as many rebounds as Bias; the tennis pro, Alarie, was 10 for 12 from the field; zone buster Kevin Strickland had the same number of field goals as Branch (five) in 20 fewer minutes.

It's enough to drive a man to straightening his tie.

"The way I feel now," Driesell said, a half-hour after the game, "I ain't never won a game. It's not what you've done yesterday that counts in this business, and we haven't done much today, have we?"

A woman wearing a red sweater forced her way through several reporters and asked if Driesell would "sign this."

He would.

"I've been telling everybody that you ought to be in the Duke Hall of Fame," she blurted.

Driesell has been damned with fainter praise.

"They'll put me in the hall of shame," he joked.

It was no laughing matter when somebody, alluding to Bias being involved in a well-publicized incident at Wake Forest earlier this week, asked if officials "read newspapers."

"I doubt," Driesell said, "if those guys can read."

To a late-arriving television crew, Driesell said: "I've told everybody a thousand times and I'll do it again. I haven't thought about 500."

Lots of us have, Lefthander. Often. And we're not weepy-sad that it didn't come today. Selfishly, we love that it's on the line Wednesday in Cole Field House against your career-long nemesis, Smith.

There are precious few happenings in sport; this will be one of them.