Maryland Coach Chris Weller called time after Virginia scored 10 straight points to take an eight-point lead early in the first half of a recent game at Cole Field House. By all accounts, it was a logical coaching maneuver.

But as the Maryland women slipped behind by 16 points, then 18, 20 and, finally, 22 before the end of the first half, Weller didn't call time again. Instead, she observed from the bench, as if the 20-minute half was a learning experience rather than an Atlantic Coast Conference game, a time to observe and diagnose her team's ills.

Certainly there are problems this season, Weller's 10th at Maryland. The Terrapins are 9-13 overall, 4-7 in the ACC. They have lost seven of their last eight. And this season,, for the first time since the inception of the women's college basketball poll -- the first time in 128 weeks of rankings -- Maryland has fallen from the top 20.

With North Carolina State, Virginia and North Carolina battling for the top spot in the ACC, the Terrapins seem unlikely to win the ACC title -- something they have done five times in the previous seven years.

Maryland has struggled this year because of youth and injuries. Against Old Dominion Saturday and against Virginia, Weller's starting lineup included two freshmen and a sophomore. Two normal starters, Julie Silverberg and Sydney Beasley, were sidelined with injuries.

"It could just be that we're suffering through the traditional rebuilding year," Weller said.

The 1984 graduation of Marcia Richardson, Maryland's all-time scorer, and Belinda Pearman, No. 6 on the all-time scoring list and eighth in rebounding, "has forced people into new roles," Weller said. "This year, we're very young. Our older players haven't been in starting capacities before and it's difficult for them to be leaders."

"We're young, but it's February," Silverberg said. "I don't think we can use being young. I think that was our problem at the beginning."

"When I first got here, we went to the Final Four," Silverberg said. "Miss Weller played six players. When you have Jas (Jasmina Perazic) and Marcia (Richardson) and Debbie (Lytle) and Myra (Waters), that's what happens.

"Last year, I could just follow Marcia and Belinda (Pearman). This year, I had to establish myself as a leader."

The only player with substantial on-court experience is junior Chequita Wood, who missed most of the preseason after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. Although she has returned, she is averaging only 11.8 points, compared with 16.9 last season.

Now, Silverberg, the starting point guard, might be out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. Beasley, a sophomore from Oxon Hill who missed four games near the start of this season because of an injury and disciplinary action, was out for six midseason games with a knee injury.

"We're not a great shooting team, and that makes it difficult," Weller said.

Maryland's inside game was to have been Wood, a 5-foot-11 junior; 6-1 Beasley, and Carolin Dehn-Duhr, a 6-5 freshman.

Consequently, Dehn-Duhr has had to bear much of the burden inside. Against Virginia, she played 33 minutes, four more than anyone else, but her statistics were no points, three rebounds and one personal foul as Maryland lost, 63-50.

Yet, Weller is committed to her freshman center. "She's progressing well," Weller said. "She needed a freshman year to adjust. It's just a matter of time before she gets used to the roughness . . . "

Next year's team will also have the benefit of Deanna Tate, a redshirt freshman this season whom Weller described as "quick as lightning."

Weller has pulled out some coaching stops in view of the hard times.

In early January, she gathered her players in her office and showed them the movie "Rocky III" in an effort to inspire them. Since then, Weller has tried platooning, but the injuries have made it difficult to shuffle players with regularity.

Recently, however, she has been encouraged. Against top-ranked Old Dominion, the Terrapins closed to within three before losing, 73-60. Two games ago, against Duke, Maryland built a 15-point lead and led, 37-31, at the half, but lost the lead and the game in the last minute. In each of her last two games, Dehn-Duhr finished with 12 points.

"This program is a top 10 program," Silverberg said. "I think we have a good shot at the ACC. Everyone's knocking everyone off. That's our tournament, and even though we didn't win it last year, it's still our tournament."