"We're 5-1. I can't believe it," George Washington's center Mike Zagardo said as the Colonials arrived here today for Sunday's Eastern Eight basketball game against Pitt. "We've got on the winning trail this game, or it's going to be a very long season."
When the Colonials were embarrassed by West Virginia, 76-61, in Morgantown Friday night, it was their third loss in the past four games and GW's first poor effort of the season. Coach Bob Tallent said today that game is best forgotten.
"But," Tallent said his team boarded the bus for the 75-mile trip here, "if we play that way for a couple more games, I'll get up one of these buildings and jump off."
In basketball, a common cliche is that games are decided in the final two minutes Sunday, Tallent predicted, the opening two minutes will tell whether his team continues the same uninspired play it showed against West Virginia or regains its earlier form.
"Most of the games we've won on the road," Tallen said, "we've come right out and jumped into a lead."
The most common reason given for GW's slump is that the Colonials have not played a home game since beating Maryland. That win improved their record to 4-1.
There are other schools of thought about GW's problems:
The Colonials play better when they play often. They played five games plus an exhibition in the season's first 13 days. Now, they are playing once a week. They had a week between the Virginia Tech and West Virginia games and will have five days off following the Pitt game.
The opposition has "the book" on the Colonials: Zone them and sag inside to counter their strength. There is no shooter to dissolve a zone, as John Holloran and Pat Tallent did in most recent years.
Both Lindsay, the shooting guard, is passing up the outside shots the coach wants him to take, but which he considers low percentage. Tom Tate, the point guard, is effective offensively only against man-to-man defenses against which he can penetrate the lane area. Brian Magid, who can shoot any team out of a zone, is ineligible as he sits out a year after transferring from Maryland.
The psychological effect of playing so well at Virginia Tech and losing took its toll on the Colonials a week later so that they came out and played scared Friday night. "A lot of guys were intimidated before the game started," team captain Les Anderson said. "I'm sure the Tech game affected a lot of guys. When you lose like that, you think about it a lot."
The Colonials are letting the opposition manhandle them on the road, without retaliating, as GW teams have done in the past.
This was a major topic of conversation on the short ride here, especially by Anderson, who could not believe the physical beating that Zagardo had taken against West Virginia. The sophomore center ended up with gashes above both eyes.
"I don't want to blame anybody," Anderson said. "But there were times guys were backing down. You've got to protect yourself. Somebody scouts us and sees that we are backing down and they'll tell their players, 'Elbow them and they'll fold up.'
"I'm not saying we should fight. But you can't back down. If a guy hits me with an elbow, I'm not going to get my shot in, harder than he did it to me, and I'm going to let him know I'm there.
"It's not being physical or being an enforcer. It's protecting yourself.It's the same in the pros. When that stuff goes on they're going to be tough and hang in there. The (West Virginia) game affected the guys enough that we did a lot of soul-searching afterward, and it won't happen again."
In Pitt, GW will be facing a 6-3 team that defeated West Virginia here earlier in the week. The Colonials can expect to face more of the sagging zone defense that is plaguing them, and they are facing a team with some outstanding individual talent, like fowards Larry Harris and Sam Clancy and guard Sonny Lewis.