In an Eastern Eight basketball game so physical that one player resembled a battered prizefighter afterward, George Washington pummeled Duquesne with its inside strength, 96-74, last night.

The game was not a candidate for basketball history. It was simply a case of George Washington, with a big lift from sixth-man Mike Samson, using its height advantage and Duquesne's lack of court sense to its best advantage and the delight of a Smith Center crowd of 1,800.

The Colonials had to win this game or face the unenviable task of winning their last two league games on the raod - at Rutgers and Massachusetts - to be assured a good seeding in next month's league tournament for the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Both GW and Dugquesne now are 4-4 in league play. The colonials got there by pounding the ball inside last night. Their front-court players produced 56 of the team's first 64 points, with center Mike Zagardo finishing with 23 and Samson adding a career high 20. Les Anderson and Tom Glenn each scored 14.

Long after Ronnie Dixon swung his elbow into GW reserve Daryle Charles and left the guard with a puffy, closed left eye and after Duquesne forward Jessie Hubbard was clawed above his right eye, GW broke the game open with a 21-6 surge for an 81-55 lead with seven minutes to play.

GW accomplished the spurt with both shooting guard Bob Lindsay and Glenn on the bench in foul trouble. There were still 12 minutes to play and the Colonials were nursing a 59-49 lead. GW Coach Bob Tallent ordered his troops out of their man-to-man defense into a 2-3 zone.

Duquesne responded with some of the most fundamentally unsound basketball imaginable.GW offered the open long jumper and the Dukes responded by taking the shots without descretion. They look themselves out of the game, quickly.

GW started fast-breaking off the misses.

"They can't run with us," said Glenn. "Not too many people can run with us, at least here."

The Colonials are 10-2 at home in a 15-6 season that has seen them win 10 of their last 12 games, with two losses to league-leading Villanova.

Glenn's words were about the kindest for the visitors all night.

"GW didn't do anything special," said Duquesne Coach John Cinicola. "Our size hurt us a lot. Our mistakes helped them, what we did - the forced shots, the turnovers."

Duquesne also was missing its sixth man, John Thomaswho was home with the flu. And starting forward John Moore played only 16 minutes because of foul trouble.

The roughness of the game was the major topic in the GW locker room.

"Did you see Daryle's eye?" Samson asked a visitor.

"They throw a lot of cheap shots on picks," Samson said. "People are running and throwing elbows and before you know it, there's a fight."

There wasn't one last nightbecause referees Joe Forte and Mike Sierco kept things well under control in the second halft.

Samson drew high praise from GW Coach Bob Tallent for finally learning his complete role as the team's sixth man, a player who can give them offensive spark as well as the superb defense he has displayed throughout his career.

"I'm playing now like I did in high school," the 6-foot-5 junior said. "Im taking it strong to the hoop. There are not too many big guys who take a lot of charges ...I worked on my offense a lot last summer. Now I've got my confidence.

"Before, I'd get the ball and I'd get rid of it fast. I tend to play with it more now and try to do something with it."

Even though last night's game showed that GW can no longer be labeled "guard-oriented," the Colonials are running the exact plays that yielded high-scoring averages for John Holloran and Pat Tallent in recent years.

"We haven't changed anything," Bob Tallent said, "We have an option for any of the the five players to shoot the ball. It just went up a little quicker when we had John and Pat."

Lindsay had only six points last night, but contributed seven rebounds and nine assists in 27 minutes.