The George Washington University basketball team plays West Virginia Friday night to start a three-day, two-game road trip that coach Bob Tallent considers pivotal for his 5-3 Colonials.

Despite its record, GW has been playing well. And that's what worries Tallent. The three losses - to Massachusetts, Florida and Virginia Tech - have been inflicted by teams whose combined record today was 24-4.

"We need a win badly," Tallent said. "We just need to get some wins. We played well down at Tech (an 81-79 defeat a week ago). We're playing well and when you're paying well, you've got to win. Your never know when the losses will start to affect your psychologically. Thats the thing you have to worry about."

This starts a stretch of five straight Eastern Eight games for the Colonials, including a Sunday test at Pittsburgh. They represent GW's only two road games this season against West Division teams within the league.

"If we win these two games, we'll be in pretty good shape in the league," said Tallent.

Unlike last year's initial Eastern Eight season, pairings for the postseason tournament for the NCAA bid are considered on total league record. Each school plays 10 games, a home-and-home series against the other three teams in its division and one game each against the other four teams.

Three other Washington teams are playing Friday night, including American and Catholic in the Fairfield, Conn., tournament. Howard plays at Gannon in the other major game.

American, winner of six of its last eight games, plays Wagner in the opener at Fairfield. Catholic meets the host team in the second game, with the championship scheduled Saturday night.

GW will be facing a West Virginia team it has beaten seven straight times, including three games in a row at Morgantown. The Mountaineers, 3-6 this season after a Wednesday night loss at Pittsburgh, are off to their worst start in 40 years.

Mountaineers fans in this basketball-crazy state remember Jerry West's career here. Therefore, coach Joedy Gardner is under fire, despite three straight winning seasons.

The latest scuttlebutt in the college-coaching ranks is that former Mountaineer star Gale Catlett, currently the very successful coach at Cincinnati, wants to return to his wife's hometown and is supposed to be politicking hard for the job.

The current West Virginia team has played a tough schedule, including losses to William and Mary, Villanova, Seton Hall and Ohio State.

Gardner complained of "dumb play" costing the Mountaineers the Pittsburgh game.

Gardner lost three of his best players off last season's 18-11 squad. The two returnees are guard Lowes Moore, who leads the team with a 19.7 scoring average, and center Maurice Robinson, averaging 16.4 points and 12 rebounds a game. No other West Virginia players are averaging in double figures.