George Washington, in the midst of a disastrous three-week slump following the most glorious basketball triumph of coach Bob Tallent's three-year regime, begins what it hopes will be a salvage campaign tonight.

On the eve of the 3 p.m. Eastern collegiate Conference game against Massachusetts at Smith Center, Tallent reflected on the Colonials' 86-76 thrashing of Maryland and its effect since then as GW lost five of six games.

Tallent concluded: (1), the win did not change a good team into world-beaters overnight, as its fans expected; (2), worse, the GW players expected it, too, and became overconfident; (3), Maryland was not that hard to beat on that particular night, and (4), the Colonials might not be good enough to beat William and Mary, Billanova and Rutgers (which beat them) on the road.

Tallent's hopes for a recovery were buoyed by what he called the Colonials' best practice of the season Thursday. As GW (12-10) seeks to untrack itself in time for its conference tournament and an NCAA bid, Maryland and Georgetown are playing home, trying to build momentum for tournaments with similar NCAA berths as the winners' reward.

Maryland, which played well its last two games, faces Duke in a 2 p.m. Atlantic Coast Conference game at Cole Field House (WMAL-TV-7). Georgetown, meanwhile, hosts Boston College at 8 in the renewal of a longtime rivalry (WTTG-TV-5).

In other major games, Navy hosts Manhattan at 3:15; American seeks to clinch at least a 500 season in an 8 p.m. game at Fairleigh Dickinson, and surprising Catholic U., which reached the 500 level Thursday for the first time this season, plays at Monmouth College, 8.

GW's Tallent told his players to forget about their slump. He said he will start 6-foot-11 freshman Tom Zagardo at center.

"All of a sudden we were supposed to beat everybody we played and I guess we got caught up in it, too," said Tallent. "Maryland was easy to defense. They don't set screens; they play a power game instead.

"And they let us run our offense. Some of the teams we've played this year play much better defense than Maryland, like Rutgers.

"Our guys really got the idea after beating Maryland that it would be easy, and it wasn't that way. We have guys on our team who have to play well every night for us to win.

"We could still end up with a good season if we win our last three games and have a good tournament."

Tonight, Tallent is looking for better defense. In addition to starting Zagardo in place of 7-2 senior Kevin Hall, Tallent also indicated he will bench freshman scorer Tom Glenn at forward in favor of either Jim Smith or Mike Samson. They are considered defensive specialists.

Massachusetts, which upset Rutgers recently, comes in with a 14-8 record following a triple-overtime loss to New Hampshires.