Maryland point guard Keith Gatlin might be relegated to the bench in favor of reserve Jeff Baxter tonight when the Terrapins meet Randolph-Macon at Cole Field House.

The lineup change would continue through Saturday when the Terrapins meet sixth-ranked Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Coach Charles G. Driesell said yesterday.

Driesell said he was displeased with Gatlin's performance in the Terrapins' 81-75 loss to third-ranked Duke last Saturday. The 6-foot-5 guard scored four points and had four assists in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener, well below his average of 10.4 points and six assists. Driesell criticized him for not playing aggressively enough in general, but particularly on defense, which never has been Gatlin's strength.

"Sometimes a little stint on the bench will wake you up," Driesell said. " . . . I don't think there's anything wrong with Keith. I just think he needs a little shock treatment."

But even if Driesell starts Baxter, a 6-1 senior averaging 8.2 points, Gatlin would see substantial playing time. Driesell speculated Gatlin might be feeling pressure to take the scoring burden off all-America forward Len Bias.

"I think maybe he's got it in his head that he's got to score a lot of points," Driesell said. "Or maybe he thinks he's got his position locked up. Whatever it is, he's not being aggressive enough, Baxter is doing a better job of that right now. He's still going to play, but he's got to do better than that."

"I don't care about that," Gatlin said of his demotion. "If it happens it happens; if it doesn't, it doesn't. Whatever he feels is best, then I'm willing to settle . . . .

"Our whole team didn't play good defense against Duke. Our guards didn't pressure them the way they did us. I'm the point guard, so maybe its more noticeable with me."

Driesell said he was mainly concerned about Maryland's inability to get any turnovers and transition baskets against Duke.

Against the Blue Devils, Baxter helped the Terrapins close an 18-point margin to six, with eight points over the last three minutes.

Gatlin did not start two games at this time last year, and was benched for extended periods in other games.