Catholic University had relied on its defensive pressure to overshadow its mediocre shooting, but yesterday in the championship game of the inaugural Eastern Invitational Tournament, the Cardinals fell behind quickly to Emory University and faltered, 98-91, at the Raymond DuFour Center.

In defeat, Catholic (18-8) may have ruined its chance of an NCAA Division III playoff bid. But the team's 41 percent field goal percentage (34 of 83) and the overwhelming dominance of Emory's 6-foot-4 sophomore center Tim Garrett, who scored a game-high 30 points and collected 14 rebounds, was just too great an obstacle to overcome.

"They are just a terrific team," said Catholic Coach Jack Bruen. "They've got great inside and outside players. That kid Garrett just killed us; he made a lot of tough shots. We knew that he was a great player, but whenever they needed a crucial basket, they just got it inside to him.

"We got behind early in the game and made a couple of runs, but we just couldn't get over the hump. Against the good teams, maybe you just don't get that chance to come back. We just didn't have anybody to stop Garrett. They had all the answers today."

By halftime, Garrett already had put a damper on Catholic's playoff hopes with 21 points and five rebounds as the Eagles led, 45-35. Catholic, with point guard Mike Lonergan scoring a career high 19 points and handing out seven assists, and with Kevin Morrison putting in 20 points against heavy pressure, could only close to within three points twice in the second half. However, it was Garrett who repeatedly stymied the Cardinals' charge with a clutch basket inside the lane.

Meanwhile, Howard will begin MEAC tournament basketball play Tuesday night at home in an 8 p.m. game against Morgan St. The winner will advance to the conference semifinal round in Greensboro, N.,C. Friday against North Carolina A&T. The championship game is Saturday at 7.

American will play William & Mary at noon, George Mason goes against James Madison at 2 and Navy plays UNC-Wilmington at 9 in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association basketball tournament which begins Saturday at the Hampton Coliseum. Semifinals are Sunday and the championship game is Monday night.