Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell surveyed Cole Field House yesterday, empty the day after the Terrapins' 71-67 loss to undefeated North Carolina, save for lots of litter and two students idly shooting baskets.

A shot went in as Driesell climbed the stairs to his office. "That's what we needed last night," he said.

Among the things Maryland could have used in Tuesday's loss to the top-ranked Tar Heels: some jump shots that rimmed out instead of in, a foul that might have been called and a timeout that perhaps should have been taken. What it all added up to was that the Terrapins are demonstrating a lack of common sense in the stretch, and that may be responsible for their 0-3 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A review of the Terrapins' death spiral after leading the Tar Heels by nine with 11 minutes remaining showed a familiar pattern: that they have a habit of lapsing offensively when they most need to take care. That is a trend that will have to stop if Maryland is going to bounce back from three straight conference losses beginning with Sunday's game against Virginia at Charlottesville (3:30 p.m.).

"It doesn't help, let's put it that way," Driesell said. "I just told them that the most important game of the year is against Virginia. We've got to forget about the others and learn by our mistakes."

To Maryland's credit, "the others" include losses to the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 5 teams in the country in North Carolina, Duke (81-75) and Georgia Tech (68-67), all by a grand total of just 11 points over 11 days.

But the Terrapins (10-5) have to be worried that two of the losses, to Duke and North Carolina, came at Cole Field House. Maryland's schedule over the next several days does not let up, with four of six games on the road. After Virginia, the Terrapins meet North Caroina State at College Park, go to Durham for a rematch with Duke, return home to play Wake Forest, then face road games against 16th-ranked Notre Dame and defending national champion Villanova.

"That two of (the losses) were at home also bothers me," Driesell said. "We could have won them both. We do that, we're in much better shape."

Driesell had said Tuesday night that the Terrapins had played "like hot dogs" in the final five minutes. Yesterday he elaborated on that: by his count they took 16 poor shots against the Tar Heels, most of them in the waning minutes.

"We didn't have good control," Driesell said. "With a nine-point lead and 11 minutes left, Carolina has to score five straight times and stop us. It's just from inexperience, maybe, or from trying too hard. That's when we need poise. We had the lead; it's not like we were trying to catch up."

Driesell was more concerned with the manner of Maryland's loss -- it was all too familiar. The Terrapins' failure to go inside had hurt them before. Against Georgia Tech, Keith Gatlin had missed a jumper with three seconds left that could have won it, and Jeff Baxter missed one from deep in the corner late in a 64-63 overtime loss to 12th-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas.

"They should know by now to go inside," Driesell said. "Against Vegas, against Georgia Tech, and again yesterday. I'm trying to beat that into their heads."

Then there was the matter of the timeout that wasn't called. "We discussed that. It might have been helpful," said forward Len Bias.

After Kenny Smith's turnover gave Maryland the ball with 39 seconds remaining and Carolina ahead, 69-67, Driesell opted not to call a timeout and set up a play.

"I considered it," Driesell said. "But we took the timeout against Georgia Tech. After that, I decided that the next time I would let them go and play it out. Also, they (the Tar Heels) were trapping on the inbounds plays, so I was concerned about that. But they should know to go inside by now."