In past years, George Washington could usually hold its own under the boards.

But 6-foot-10 center Mike Zigardo has graduated and with him went many a rebound and layup. Coach Bob Tallent failed to recruit a suitable center to replace him and that means trouble for the Colonials.

"We're small, for sure," said Tallent, who starts three forwards, none taller than 6-foot-6. "Every game so far, we've been beat on the boards and it's obvious some nights we'll get beat on the boards badly.

"We try to make up for our lack of rebounding by running a lot more and pressing. But to run you have to get some rebounds. The first game, we got killed on the boards but in the (Morehead State) tournament last week, we did much better. We just can't afford to give terms three and four shots each time down court."

The Colonials (1-2) will face a team will similar problems Saturday when they host crosstown rival Georgetown (4-2) at the Smith Center at 8 p.m.

The Hoyas also have had rebounding problems but have made up for that deficiency with good outside shooting and tough defense.

"On paper, they look better than we do," said Tallent. "They're young, too, but John (Thompson) uses a lot of people. This game is always a big one for both of us and we would love to win it."

The Colonials will need a near-perfect shooting night to upset the Hoyas. The one player who could play a major role in the game is Wilbert Skipper, a 6-3 guard. The junior college transfer, who formerly played at Anacostia, says he has begun "to feel comfortable in Coach Tallent's offense now" and is playing like the Wilbert Skipper D.C. fans remember.

"I'm a scorer and I was a little tentative in my first game," said Skipper, who scored 21 points in GW's 75-71 victory over Illinois-Chicago Circle in the consolation game of the Morehead Classic last week. "The coach just wants me to slow down and get into the flow of the game. I have to become a bit more patient in the half-court game.

"We know we don't have the big center and all of us will have to help out on the boards. Everyone on this team has a role and for us to have a good season, we'll have to accept them," said Skipper, tied for the club scoring lead (14.3 average) with Oscar Wilmington. "We have good people on this team but we're inexperienced. It'll take some time before we begin to jell. Tonight would be a good time to start."

Tallent said Skipper will start at guard with Randy Davis (11.7 points). Wilmington, at 6-3, 6-6 Paul Gracza (10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds) and 6-6 Curtis Smith (9-3 and 2.3) are the starting forwards.

"The key for not only tonight but our season is to become better defensively and get some rebounds," Tallent said. "We've shown some improvement the last two games. Of course, we've had to change our offense because we can't go inside as much. We don't have a (Brian) Magid but we can hit the 18-footers. We have to."