"It's been quite a rivalry, as good as any in college basketball anywhere. It doesn't matter if one team is not playing well or is having a bad year, it always comes down to the last minute. It's a great matchup."

Bob Lindsay, GWU guard

George Washington and Georgetown renew a series tonight that has seen two overtime and three onepoint games in the past five regularseason meetings. Tipoff is 8 p.m. at Smith Center (WDCA-TV-20).

Few people have forgotten the 1978 meeting: Georgetown's Craig Esherick tossing in a "prayer shot" from mid-court to send the game into overtime; GW forward Mike Samson going to the locker room to have stitches taken in a split lip, then coming back to play.

Georgetown Coach John Thompson downplays city rivalries. For the past two seasons, GW should have been concentrating on league play instead of the Hoyas. Nevertheless, the emotions still rise for this neighborhood battle of Foggy Bottom vs the Hilltop.

For the first time, the game is significant to both teams in areas more tangible than pride.

Georgetown, the nation's 16th-ranked team with a 20-4 record, is looking toward an NCAA at-large bid if it falters in the upcoming ECAC playoffs. GW, which has struggled all season with injuries, has a 13-11 record and may find the game vital to its hopes for a home-court playoff spot in the Eastern Eight.

GW's Curt Jeffries, who missed seven weeks earlier with a muscle injury in a leg, suffered a sprained knee in the 87-76 defeat at Boston University Monday night and Coach Bob Tallent is unsure whether the sophomore guard will be able to play tonight.

Despite the five straight wins prior to Monday, Tallent says of his team: "We're playing decently, but not great. We still haven't had all five guys playing well at the same time. When we do, we can really put some things together."

The catalyst is Bob Lindsay, who suffered a knee injury against Villanova on Dec. 4 and only now is regaining the form that made the 6-foot-4 senior guard GW's best all-around player.

In a number of their losses, the Colonials collapsed when Samson went to the bench with foul problems. The loss of Lindsay, who also can play small forward, gave the Colonials a depth problem.

Against Duquesne in the first of three road games in six nights that left the Colonials "worn out," according to Tallent, Samson suffered a head injury early in the game. Lind-say replaced him and the Colonials did not falter.

"Bob had a good deal to do with it," said Samson of GW's recent resurgence. "He gives us a lot of depth at forward and a real good ball-handler."

Tallent considers handling Georgetown's full-court press and harnessing forward Craig Shelton as the keys to the game. Georgetown's Thompson sees the press and how well the Hoyas handle center Mike Zagardo as the keys for his team.

Samson, GW's best and quickest front-line defensive player, likely will guard Shelton, although the matchup by positions should put Glenn against him.

How does he plan to guard Shelton?

"You can't score if you don't get the ball," Samson said. "You can talk all you want about matchups and strategy... You have to play."

Eastern Eight tournament committee members will meet today and likely decide that if GW is in a three-way tie for third place (at 6-4) with West Virginia and either Rutgers or Pitt, then overall records would decide who gets the two home-court advantages in the first round of the playoffs.

Pitt is 16-8 and Rutgers 17-8, so that leaves West Virginia (14-10) and GW (13-11). West Virginia plays at Virginia Tech tonight and at GW Saturday.