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 LSU: "The conference game means more to them in terms of their goals. They want to win the ACC."

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.

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, fouled out with 3:40 remaining.

Lewis might have his hands full with Duke center Christian Laettner, who's averaging 19.5 points and 10 rebounds a game. In in the first meeting between the teams, Lewis limited Laettner to 17 points, but the Blue Devils took a 94-78 decision -- helped by point guard Bobby Hurley's 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.

"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. 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 start Saturday's game.

Still, in the Hoyas' last four games 7-foot-2 Dikembe Mutombo has averaged 20 points, Mourning 15.