Ten college basketball seasons ago, American University, led by an intense young coach, tried to make a name for itself by traveling to Cole Field House with hopes of upsetting Maryland.

The Eagles, however, were crushed, 95-65, and if history repeats itself tonight when the teams meet in College Park, chances are Gary Williams, who coached AU then but now leads the Terrapins, will rest a little easier.

"Any time you play an outside game versus a team from a big-time conference, a win can be a feather in your cap. I know, I was there," Williams said yesterday. American plays in the Colonial Athletic Association.

"I'm worried about the game. We're the kind of team that can beat anybody if we play the way we're capable of, but if we're not ready we may be the type of team that can be beaten by anybody."

Maryland (11-7) showed Saturday what it's capable of with a stirring, 104-100 triumph over North Carolina State.

Later that evening the Eagles (8-8) were upset at Bender Arena by Navy, 94-82.

The intense, young coach currently directing American, Chris Knoche, said he was disappointed by his players' mental output against the Midshipmen, but added he was looking forward to getting back on track against the Terrapins.

"I think we've given some good physical efforts this season and we have to get back to that against Maryland," he said. "They play so hard that it forces the best out of you -- if you don't give your best then you're just fodder for them."

This will be the second time this season that Williams has coached against one of his old employers: The Terrapins lost to Boston College, 100-85, on Dec. 3 in the ACC-Big East Challenge.

Tonight's game may be a bit more special for Williams, though, because American represents his first job as a head coach. After going 27-27 in their first two seasons under Williams, the Eagles soared to 24-6 and 21-9, earning two bids to the National Invitation Tournament.

"I'll always appreciate the fact that they gave me an opportunity, hiring me even though I had only been an assistant coach," he said. "Any time you hire someone without head coaching experience you're opening yourself up for criticism if things don't go well.

"We worked hard to get it going. We didn't get a lot of attention early, but that meant we could make some mistakes without being under the gun. By the end we had a pretty good program."

Knoche and his assistant, Gordon Austin, played for Williams at American. And if nothing else, said Knoche, tonight's game will be a chance to exact revenge "for all the wind sprints he used to make us run.

"Really, looking at it honestly, being at the mid-major level like we or George Washington are, you're greatful any time you get a shot at an upper-level team. And Maryland is an upper-level team," he said.

"I personally can't weigh any game more than the ones in my conference -- that's my ticket to the NCAA tournament -- but I am anxious for us to get as much local notoriety as possible, so from that end it's an important game. My players are looking forward to playing the game, they know what it means."

Before yesterday's practice, Williams was concerned about how his players would approach the game, sandwiched between the victory over the Wolfpack and Friday's ACC game at Georgia Tech.

Afterward, Williams said he was pleased with the workout, but still worried that the thrilling nature of the N.C. State triumph might work against the Terrapins' preparations.

"When you're coming off a great win," he said, "sometimes you dwell on it and it's hard to play that next game -- no matter who it's against."