DURHAM, N.C., FEB. 8 -- For the second consecutive weekend, Maryland tries to catch an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent off guard, between big games. The Terrapins are here to play Duke Saturday afternoon. Thursday night at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the No. 6 Blue Devils dispatched Virginia, 86-74; Sunday they host 19th-ranked Louisiana State.

No. 20 Georgetown (14-6, 6-3 in the Big East) can move into a tie for first place in the conference by defeating Villanova in an 8 p.m. game at Capital Centre. Syracuse leads the conference at 7-3.

In games involving other area teams, Navy plays William and Mary in Annapolis at 1:30, Virginia plays ninth-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill at 4, George Washington plays its homecoming game against Rhode Island at 4:30, and George Mason plays North Carolina-Wilmington at Patriot Center at 8.

Last weekend, Maryland (12-9, 2-6) was in Atlanta, hoping Georgia Tech would either be down from a loss against Duke two nights earlier or looking ahead to North Carolina State two days later.

But while the Yellow Jackets displayed some tired legs, the Terrapins were unable to take advantage, starting poorly en route to an 80-65 loss.

Coach Gary Williams said today he had no illusions that Duke (19-4, 7-2) might look past his team and ahead to its nationally televised game against 19th-ranked Louisiana State.

"Their program is at a level where they don't do things like that," Williams said. "LSU is a national game and if they win they might move up a spot in the rankings, but the conference game means more to them in terms of their goals.

"They want to win the ACC and we're a part of that. They have to win this game if they want to {stay ahead of} North Carolina."

The Duke players were saying exactly that following Thursday night's win over Virginia. While they admit it will be a challenge to go against LSU all-American candidate Shaquille O'Neal, beating Maryland is the priority.

"Anyone who would think otherwise doesn't know {Coach} Mike Krzyzewski," said guard Brian Davis. "Maryland doesn't have anything to lose. People like {Vince} Broadnax and {Kevin} McLinton always play hard. If we don't come out ready and they get their confidence up, it could be a long afternoon."

The Terrapins would like to get back into the ACC win column after losing at Georgia Tech and at Clemson (73-69 on Wednesday). Against the Tigers, they shot only 37 percent and had 21 turnovers, but still could have won.

Williams said the defense in the second half was "the worst it's been in a long time." That happened in part because center Cedric Lewis picked up his third and fourth fouls in the opening minute and was forced to the bench for much of the half.

The senior, second in the nation in blocked shots, eventually fouled out with 3:40 remaining.

"It's tough on our defense when Cedric's in foul trouble," said guard Matt Roe. "He's our anchor on defense. When he's out there the other players can afford to cheat on some things because he's back there."

Chances are Lewis will have his hands full trying to deal with Duke center Christian Laettner, who's averaging 19.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. Lewis did a creditable job in the first meeting between the teams, limiting Laettner to 17 points, but the Blue Devils still took a 94-78 decision at Cole Field House.

In that game point guard Bobby Hurley had a career day, with 26 points (including five three-point field goals) and 10 assists.

"We didn't count on him shooting like that from the outside," Williams said.

One thing any team can expect from Duke is defense. Thursday against Virginia, the Blue Devils forced eight turnovers in the first eight minutes and 24 total, never really giving the Cavaliers a chance to establish consistency on offense.

"That's the question when you play them: Can you run your offense?" said Williams.

Georgetown's opponents are asking themselves the same question, particularly with junior forward Alonzo Mourning pronouncing himself "pretty much back into the flow of things" after his prolonged absence because of a strained arch.

In their 79-65 victory over Providence on Wednesday, the Hoyas limited the Friars to 32.1 percent shooting and had 14 blocked shots, by far their best total against a Big East team this season. Overall, Georgetown leads the nation with a field goal percentage defense mark of .358.

But Villanova is coming off Tuesday's 61-51 victory over eighth-ranked St. John's in New York. The game served as something of a coming-out party for 6-foot-10 center James Bryson, a sophomore from Largo High School. He tied his career best with 21 points, seven times his scoring average for the season.

Bryson made the first start of his career last season when Georgetown visited the Spectrum, and Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino gave 7-2 junior Paul Vrind a rare start when the Wildcats met the Hoyas this season. So it will be no great surprise if either or both are on the court to begin Saturday's game.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson's greatest concerns will be defensing 6-6 junior off guard Greg Woodard and 6-6 sophomore swingman Lance Miller. Woodard has the ability to be a devastating shooter from the perimeter and Miller is as effective inside as he is outside.

Still, the Wildcats will have to find a way to contend with Mourning and 7-2 center Dikembe Mutombo. In the Hoyas' last four games, Mutombo has averaged 20 points, Mourning 15. "All I needed was some time," Mourning said. "Now Dikembe and I are changing a lot of people's thoughts about playing us."