George Washington, seeking to regain the verve that made it a solid basketball team in midseason, plays at Pittsburgh tonight in a first-round game of the Eastern tournament.

The Colonials are one of three area teams involved in Division I playoffs tonight, with Navy hosting a 7:30 p.m. ECAC South first-round game against Baltimore University and Catholic traveling to Old Dominion for another ECAC South first-round game at 8 o'clock.

GW (15-10) has lost five of its last seven games after going through a midseason span in which the Colonials won eight of 10 games, losing twice to league champion Villanova, the second time on a final-second shot off a busted play.

That loss and ensuing close setback by Virginia Tech served as an emotional crash for the Colonials. They have not played well since, lacking both the intensity and confidence they had shown earlier.

Foremost in GW's problems has been another breakdown in the Colonial offense, a segment of the game that affected them adversely early this season. Pitt plays a variety of pressure, trapping defenses and solving them, GW Coach Bob Tallent said, is the key to GW's hopes tonight.

GW's strength has been its running game, but Tallent says patience will be vital tonight."We can't try to fly up and down the court," he said. "Pitt is prone to foul, so the longer we hold it on offense, the more likely they are to foul."

Pitt (16-10) clobbered GW in the team's only regular-season game, hitting 80 percent of its second-half shots. Sammie Ellis, a 6-foot-7 forward and leading scorer, missed that game with an ankle injury.

Surprisingly, the Panthers have been a more inconsistent team since Ellis' return.

The winner of tonight's game advances to the league semifinals, to play the Villanova-Massachusetts winner, Friday night in the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.