There was a glimpse of the future last Saturday in Raleigh, N.C.

The game looked promising enough, with No. 2 Virginia facing No. 3 North Carolina State. Despite local television coverage -- which is still a coup for the sport -- an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 11,520 showed up at Reynolds Coliseum.

As if the circumstances weren't already perfect, the game turned out to be possibly the best the sport has seen, as the Cavaliers outlasted the Wolfpack, 123-120, in triple overtime.

"If people aren't turned on to women's basketball by that game, then they aren't sports fans, period," Virginia Coach Debbie Ryan said.

The game, in which the Wolfpack squandered a 20-point second-half lead, was filled with clutch plays. Cavaliers guard Tammi Reiss made one of her five three-point shots with 5.8 seconds left to force the first overtime; Virginia's Dena Evans made a runner with 40 seconds left to force the second overtime and Wolfpack center Rhonda Mapp made a three-pointer with 10 seconds left to force the third extra period.

With the game tied at 120 and a fourth overtime looming, North Carolina State's Danyel Parker had her pass intercepted by Tonya Cardoza, whose layup over Parker provided the winning margin. The Wolfpack then called a timeout they didn't have, and Evans made one of two technical foul shots to ice it.

There were two NCAA records set in the game: most points by a losing team (120) and most combined points (243). In addition to the attendance, the teams set ACC records for most three-pointers made by one team (11 by North Carolina State) and most field goals attempted by one team (103 by Virginia). The Cavaliers, who regained the No. 1 ranking Monday after a loss by Penn State, set five school records and tied two others.

Dawn Staley became the first Virginia player and the second ACC player to record a triple-double. The 5-foot-6 junior guard had 24 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.

"The game of women and men is the same except we just can't play above the rim," Wolfpack Coach Kay Yow said. "You're not going to be disappointed by quality women's teams. {This game} proved that we're worth seeing, that we can play, that we can execute." Playing the Boys Game

George Washington guard Anne Riley thinks many people use their freshman year in college to toughen mentally. But in her case, that experience came one year earlier.

When she was a senior at Holy Cross High School in Lynchburg, Va., there weren't enough players to field a girls' team. So, instead of sitting out the year, she joined the boys' team.

"It didn't go over real well," Riley said. "Some teams didn't like it. A few teams canceled games with us because of it. I thought that was kind of weak on their part."

Riley's form of revenge came in the best way possible. She led the team in scoring. "I was making shots and people were saying, 'She's not supposed to make that,' " she said.

Now a senior captain, Riley is averaging 13 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.3 steals for the 11-2 Colonial Women, who are off to their best start ever. . . .

George Washington's early recruiting efforts have received national notice. It signed three players during the early signing period, including two from Christ the King (N.Y.), acknowledged as one of the best programs in the country.

The signings of 5-8 point guard Debbie Hemery and 6-1 forward Darlene Saar led Blue Star recruiting report to rank the class the nation's sixth best; Women's Basketball News Service ranked it seventh. Starring in Richmond

Richmond's Amy Mallon (Mount Hebron High) is a contender for the all-Colonial Athletic Association first team. The 5-10 junior is second in the league in scoring (13.1), seventh in field goal percentage (.451), second in assists (4.4) and third in rebounds (8.3). . . .

Maryland senior guard Mary Barnes (Gaithersburg) already has eclipsed her combined three-year totals in minutes played (246 to 151), points (48 to 43), rebounds (36 to 24), assists (32 to 15) and steals (20 to 5). After spending three years at the end of the bench, Barnes has started five games and is averaging four points, three rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.6 steals per game. . . .

Maryland's Carla Holmes is still serving an indefinite suspension. The senior guard was disciplined on Dec. 12 for unspecified reasons.