The last time George Washington beat Temple, in 1983, Ellis McKennie was a high school freshman in Philadelphia. Since then, the Owls have won 16 straight, nine of them during McKennie's years as shooter, playmaker, adroit defender and even captain of the Colonials.

It may be difficult for McKennie and his teammates to end that string Thursday at Smith Center (HTS, 9 p.m.) with defending Atlantic 10 Conference champion Temple bringing along a potent 8-3 team that includes 6-foot-5 super guard Mark Macon and 7-foot center Donald Hodge.

This is a new era at Foggy Bottom, though, with Mike Jarvis trying to instill some confidence in a program that managed only one above-.500 season in the 1980s. If the 7-4 Colonials do come up short, they are unlikely to repeat the collapse of last season, when they took a similar record into the Temple game, lost a three-point heartbreaker and slid to a 14-17 finish.

"Last year it came down to the last shot and things didn't go our way," McKennie said. "Temple is a very talented team and maybe we'll need a sledgehammer to stop Macon and Hodge. But you always get up for a top 20 team, especially one that's been pushing you around pretty good.

"For me, this has to be the last chance to beat them, with no more years left. I'm from Philly and you always hear it when you go back home. Mik Kilgore {a 6-8 forward} is from my neighborhood and we know the same people. They needle me, but they don't rub it in too bad."

Temple was one of the schools that recruited McKennie, after he averaged 31.7 points and eight assists as a senior at George Washington High School.

"My coach {Hotsy Reinfeld} was from Temple, but I didn't want to stay home," McKennie said. "I kind of got off on the wrong foot here, but all in all, GW is a wonderful school. For my major {political science}, it's the best place for me, although I probably could have gotten a few more wins if I had gone somewhere else."

As a freshman, McKennie battled Coach John Kuester and lost, developing an ulcer while seeing limited playing time. As a sophomore, he averaged 13.1 points, led the Colonials in steals and assists and was elected captain for his junior year.

In the fifth game, he suffered a stress fracture that terminated his season, which became a redshirt year. For added discomfort, he and teammates Frank Williams and Ricardo Smith were suspended for receiving both a food allowance and meal tickets.

Last year McKennie tried to do it all. He was the leading scorer, directed the play as point guard, led the Atlantic 10 in steals and set a tournament record with 15 assists in a victory over St. Bonaventure -- all this while questioning Kuester's leadership.

McKennie was overjoyed when Jarvis replaced Kuester as coach, but Jarvis relegated McKennie to the bench, behind freshman point guard Alvin Pearsall and sophomore shooting guard Dirkk Surles.

Nevertheless, McKennie worked hard and when Surles was injured against Virginia Tech, McKennie was able to step in and do a solid job. In subsequent road victories at Duquesne and Boston University, he was a major contributor, tying the Dukes with a last-minute three-pointer and adding six points in overtime for a total of 25.

"He's playing very, very well," Jarvis said. "He came through for us when Dirkk was hurt and he's continued to play really well. He just decided he was going to be even better in everything he attempted."

Jarvis felt that McKennie was under too much pressure last year, noting that "there are very few teams where the point guard is the high scorer. It's very dangerous and any team in that situation is almost doomed to failure. It's very unfair to the player, too much to ask."

Where he battled Kuester at every turn, McKennie accepted Jarvis's evaluation.

"It was bad in the beginning, but you have to realize that with a new coach, he has to go by what he sees," McKennie said. "I hadn't practiced well and I hadn't played well and Dirkk was playing very well."

"The Temple game is as important as any other game and I told them to play as hard as they can," said Jarvis, "the same as they do every other game and every practice. But it's but no more important. It has no extra significance."

Unless you happen to be from Philadelphia.