The University of Maryland's basketball team apparently is too young and Len Bias can't do everything by himself, judging by Saturday's loss to third-ranked Duke in the Terrapins' Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

That the Terrapins managed to keep it close despite their problems, however, could mean growth potential.

Maryland should have been awed by the size of Duke's front court of Mark Alarie, Danny Ferry and David Henderson, or dazzled by a back court of Johnny Dawkins and Tommy Amaker in the 81-75 loss at Cole Field House.

Instead, the Terrapins closed an 18-point deficit to six, actually outrebounded the Blue Devils, 30-27, and freshman guard John Johnson got 18 important points against that much-talked-about back court.

The real problem was that the Terrapins, by starting freshmen Tony Massenburg at center and Johnson at guard, played like two different teams from moment to moment. They took an 11-4 lead and lost it. They trailed by 12, and then caught up to trail just 39-34 at the half. They trailed by 18 twice in the second half.

"We did some encouraging things, and we did some sorry things," Coach Charles G. Driesell said.

The biggest problem was a lack of cohesion, which seems to come from the fact that the Terrapins still rely too heavily on Bias, their all-America forward. And when they aren't relying too much on him, they are taking matters into their own still-unsteady hands.

"I want them to look for Len sometimes," Driesell said. "But we seem to get out of our flow of offense. The start of the second half looked like a one-on-one game. Everyone was going up, and we got right out of the ball game. I think that's what got us in the hole."

"Everyone isn't looking for their shot," Bias said. "They're depending too much on one person. When you see your shot, you have to take it. That's what Duke does. Then we were trying to force shots. Everyone seems to think it's their own job. I think that's our problem."

None of that prevented Bias from getting his game-high 28 points, the 10th time in 12 games he has had 20 or more points. "We tried everything to cover him," Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. But Bias also ended up forcing some, making 10 of 17 from the field and turning the ball over an uncharacteristic four times.

"I'm not discouraged," Driesell said. "We could have folded up and got beat by 25 or 30. But they kept coming back."

The Terrapins will have a potential breather against Randolph-Macon Tuesday night at Cole Field House (8 p.m.), before resuming ACC play at Georgia Tech Saturday night.

Three local games are scheduled tonight: American, which has lost five straight, will play at North Carolina-Wilmington, Navy will visit East Carolina and George Washington will play at Rhode Island.

American and Navy probably can learn something from each other by comparing recent opponents. The Eagles' fifth straight loss came against East Carolina, 70-62, Saturday night, while Navy beat Wilmington, 76-61.

UNC-Wilmington doesn't figure to be a good opponent for American to break a losing streak against. The Seahawks are 7-3 and have a strong center, Brian Rowsom, averaging 19.4 points a game.

Navy's David Robinson did a good job containing Rowsom, who ended up with eight points on three-for-23 shooting. But it is doubtful AU can do that well. The Eagles allowed East Carolina junior forward Marchell Henry career highs of 28 points and 10 rebounds.

The Eagles must improve offensively, if they are to win. They shot 44 percent against East Carolina and had 11 turnovers in the second half.

Navy also had its share of turnovers, 23, against Wilmington. But Robinson offset that. He blocked a career-high 14 shots and had 21 points and 14 rebounds.

George Washington will continue its New England swing against Atlantic 10 rivals. The Colonials, who have not lost to the Rams since the 1981-82 season, probably will lack forward Moti Daniel, the team's leading rebounder. He missed Saturday's 78-72 loss to the University of Massachusetts because of a sprained ankle. Rhode Island (4-6) lost its league opener Saturday to Temple, 76-60.

Georgetown, George Mason and Virginia will get a chance to rest for upcoming home games. Georgetown will play Big East rival Connecticut Wednesday at Capital Centre, George Mason will play host to Atlantic 10 champion West Virginia Thursday, and Virginia will entertain state rival William and Mary Wednesday.