The La Salle Explorers hoped the sense of desperation that grips them these days would be enough to help them overcome the many disadvantages they had against taller, deeper, more experienced and more talented George Washington in yesterday's Atlantic Ten Conference game at Tom Gola Arena.

Hard as they tried, though, it wasn't enough.

The Colonials (18-8, 9-5) established their superiority by building a 15-point halftime lead, then shrugged off several La Salle attempts to make a significant run in the second half to hand the Explorers their seventh loss in eight games, 86-74.

The loss further damaged the chances La Salle (10-18, 3-11) has of making it to the conference tournament, which begins March 7 in Atlantic City. The last two finishers in the conference will be left behind, and the Explorers must win one of their final two regular-season games and St. Bonaventure must lose twice for La Salle to head down the Shore. If La Salle and the Bonnies end in a tie, the tie-breaker will go to the Bonnies because of their win over La Salle.

And the schedule maker did the Explorers no favors: Their last two games are against the league's top two teams - Massachusetts and Xavier.

"We know we have to win at least one more game to have a chance, and we'll do everything we can to try to do that," coach John Giannini said after GW used its distinct height advantage to outscore La Salle in the paint, 44-20.

Defending quality guards has been a problem for the young Explorers most of the season, and yesterday was no different as Philadelphia native Maureece Rice scored 21 points while draining three three-point shots, and 6-4 senior Carl Elliott, GW's best player, had 16 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and four steals against only two turnovers.

"[Elliott] is sort of our all-purpose guy," said GW coach Karl Hobbs, whose team is trying to catch St. Joseph's to get one of the tourney byes that goes to the first four teams.

The cold-shooting Explorers made just 10 of 31 shots from behind the three-point arc with Darnell Harris (13 points) nailing four of them, and freshman Ruben Guillandeaux (15 points, six assists) adding three.

The Colonials took control of the game with a strong final seven minutes of the first half, dominating the boards to expand a 22-20 lead to 42-27 at the break.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo

at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.