Yesterday afternoon, a visitor to George Washington University, the site of tonight's ballyhooed basketball game with Maryland, was surprised to find no one had started digging the fox holes around Smith Center.

Inside the athletic facility, where one must show identification before proceeding more than 10 steps, head coach Bob Tallent and two of his key players seemed only mildly fired up about the cold war waged recently by telephone between the school's athletic directors.

In the planning of the first area Tip-Off Tournament, won by Maryland two weeks ago, GW was invited and accepted, then pulled out over scheduling disagreements.

In the verbal crossfire, a basketball rivalry more than half a century old became a casualty. Maryland athletic director Jim Kehoe promises the Terps will never play another game with GW after the present contract runs out next year.

All this came about after GW beat Maryland last year for the first time in 16 seasons, and after the Terps' off-the-bench sparkplug, Brian Magid, transferred to GW. Mixing all these things together, many folks believed the stage had been set for the players to come out tonight firing carbines instead of jump shots.

Tom Glenn, a new GW starter and Magid's roommate, conceded it was "a pretty cheap shot (and) a cop-out" that Maryland apparently had turned up its nose at th prospect of playing any more games in GW's 5,000-seat arena.

GW star forward Les (High Rise) Anderson tried to put the whole thing in perspective.

"To me," said Anderson, a native Washingtonian, "it's playing against all the guys I played with during the summer at Maryland's armory. You want to win to get the psychological edge for next summer."

Meanwhile, the first Hoya Invitational at Georgetown's McDonough Gymnasium has Georgia (1-1) vs. St. Leo (Fla.) (0-6) at 7 p.m. followed by Georgetown (3-2) vs. Xavier of New Orleans (4-5) at 9 p.m.

Georgia is led by 6-foot-10 sophomore center Lavon Mercer with an average of 17 points and 115 rebounds per game.

Georgetown will be without center Mike Frazier (injured instep), forward Craig Shelton (broken right wrist) and guard Mike Riley (painful back).

For the players in the Maryland GW game, there seems to be little blood boiling, even though the territorial bragging rights Anderson spoke of are important here, where basketball is undisputed king among youths. It used to be that little GW longed to win to prove itself worthy of coexisting with the nationally ranked team in College Park.

But after last year's win over Maryland and Wednesday's victory over Wisconsin, GW as Glenn put it, "is not the small school down the road."

Tallent admitted to going bananas after last year's victory over the Terps. "But then we lost our next three straight," said Tallent. Anderson similarly lamented: "After that game, we never played as well again. It's funny to me that so much fuss is raised about this game. I think it can hurt the players."

Tallent is now taking the position that "it would not be the end of the world if we lost."

Three years ago, these teams became engaged in a minor brawl, but Tallent does no expect any fireworks tonight, certainly not over the haggling between the school's coat-and-tie officials.

"When I was a player, we didn't care about these things," said Tallent. "Athletic directors are in their own world."

"There are no hard feelings between Lefty Driesell and me. He recruited me in high school and I almost went to Davidson (where Driesell was coaching at the time).

"I enjoy this rivalry and I'm sad to see it end. Actually, in this game we have nothing to lose. Maryland is ranked 12th in the nation. We're not ranked. I'm sure Lefty will have them fired up. I think they took us lightly last year."

The 5-0 Terps no doubt have respect for the 3-1 Colonials, who have a more explosive front line with the addition of Glenn, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, to the starting lineup.

While Wisconsin double- and triple-teamed Anderson, Glenn freed himself for a game-high 20 points.

GW erased a late Wisconsin lead with a full-court zone press, and Glenn admitted "I've heard that rumor," that a press could disrupt Maryland.

Up front, Tallent feels Glenn, ANderson adn 6-10 center Mike Zagardo (averaging 16 points a game) can score and rebound with Maryland's revolving front line of John Bilney, Lawrence Boston, Larry Gibson, Mike Davis and Albert King.

It is Maryland's offensive potential in the backcourt that Tallent fears. Freshmena point guard Greg Manning, voted ACC rookie of the week, has hit 30 of 37 shots and been the high-point man in the last three wins, including the exhibition with Athletes in Action. Also, Billy Bryant has all those crazy moves and a 15-8 scoring average, and JoJo Hunter needs no pordding to fire away.

But Glenn says GW is ready and confident.

"I'm just going out to play and have a good time," said Glenn. "Everyone knows we can beat them. It's just a matter of us playing."

In other games involving local teams. American hosts Delaware, Howard entertains Norfolk State Bowie State hosts Lincoln, Catholic is at Rider, Gallaudet is at Shenandoah, George Mason plays at Gannon. Navy visits Old Dominion. Montgomety-Takoma hosts Anne Arundel and Southeastern is at Strayer.