Maryland lost its sixth straight Atlantic Coast Conference game tonight, 80-68, to a second-ranked Duke team that led start to finish.

There was nothing particularly new about the Terrapins' latest misery, except for the way they lost: This one came despite a career-high 41 points by all-America Len Bias.

Maryland, which has lost five straight overall, trailed by as many as 22 points in the second half after Duke had taken a 49-31 lead at intermission. But Bias almost singlehandedly brought the Terrapins to within 10 points at 70-60 with 6:10 remaining before the Blue Devils opened it up again.

Bias, however, was the only scorer in double figures for Maryland (10-8 overall, 0-6 ACC) on a night when Coach Charles G. Driesell performed some searching experiments with his lineup.

Driesell had threatened to play several different faces and bench some regulars in the wake of the Terrapins' 67-55 loss to N.C. State Thursday. He kept his word, starting a two-freshman lineup with Tony Massenburg at center and John Johnson at guard, and used a total of five freshmen before the night was over.

Maryland was hurt to begin with by the absence of guard Keith Gatlin, suffering from back spasms, and the experimenting provided few answers. The Terrapins were outrebounded by Duke, 38-27, and had 21 turnovers.

The Blue Devils outscored Maryland, 25-7, over one stretch in the first half and threatened to blow the Terrapins out. Only the performance of Bias kept Maryland remotely close.

Guard Johnny Dawkins led Duke (17-2, 5-2) with 24 points, followed by Mark Alarie with 17.

Massenburg was the second-highest Maryland scorer behind Bias with eight points, but he had only one rebound in 20 minutes. Johnson had two points and one assist in 24 minutes. No one else had more than four points for Maryland.

The lineup change was the Terrapins' ninth this season. Only Bias and Derrick Lewis, who had two points and seven rebounds, have held their positions for all 17 games.

"Right now I'm totally confused," Driesell said. "But we'll come up with something. That's what I get paid for. A lot of teams would have the same record we have if they'd played our schedule."

The Terrapins have indeed had a tough schedule. They lost to three of the top five teams in the country over a period of 11 days, then lost on the road to Virginia on the road and at home to North Carolina State.

"I thought this was a really dangerous game for us," Duke Coach Mike Kryzyzewski said. "I think they're a good team with a great player."

Bias finished 17 for 17 from the foul line and 14 for 20 from the field. He also had eight rebounds, two steals and an assist in 39 minutes in one of the finest performances of his career.

The last time a Maryland player scored more than 40 points was in 1978, when Ernest Graham had a school-record 44 against North Carolina State.

No Maryland players were available for interviews after the game; Driesell sent them to the bus before making a brief statement and entertaining a few questions. But the consensus among the Duke team is that Maryland is not as bad as its record appears.

"They've been close; they just can't come up winning," Alarie said.