American University, which has had more ups and downs than the price of gold this 9-9 basketball season, continues its roller-coaster campaign tonight against a George Washington team playing its best.
The 8 p.m. game at Smith Center will have AU, which has not won or lost more than two successive games the entire season, coming off a 24-point rout by Georgetown Saturday night, while GW is coming off an Eastern Eight win at West Virginia.
Mike Zagardo, GW's 6-foot-10 senior center, finally is playing the kind of basketball expected of him after he was slowed by a preseason ankle injury and the inability of his teammates to work the ball into him earlier in the 10-5 season.
Zagardo scored a season-high 26 points against West Virginia and Gary Williams, the AU coach, thinks West Virginia Coach Gale Catlett made a tactical error in putting special emphasis on Brian Magid, but ignoring Zagardo and Tom Glenn.
Magid, GW's bombardier, had made 51 of his last 75 field-goal attempts over five games going into the West Virginia contest. The Mountaineers held Magid to 11 points on four-of-10 marksmanship, yet lost the game because Zagardo and Glenn, GW's two inside starters, combined for 43 points on 67 percent shooting.
"He's a quality player, but you can't worry about Magid to the extent you're going to give up the inside," William said. "To me, that's what West Virginia did. All GW had to do was dump the ball inside."
Inside is where AU is most vulnerable, as shown by Georgetown's 13-rebound margin.
AU again will play without center-forward Piper Harvey, who will see a doctor Tuesday for the go-ahead to resume play after suffering minor head, neck and rib injuries last week, and forward Leon Kearney, who was indefinitely suspended three games ago for disciplinary reasons.
AU has a front-court problem, with only one reserve -- freshman center Ray McCarthy. The press brought the Eagles back into last year's game before they lost in overtime.
"They're really susceptible to pressure," Williams said. "We hurt them last year with it. We've got to press them somehow, but we've got to be cautious."
In another game tonight, North Carolina A&T plays at George Mason at 7:30.