American University's new starting basketball lineup, forced into reality sooner than Coach Gary Williams expected, remained unbeaten last night.
Forward Dennis Ross and guard Chris Knoche, the newcomers, complemented star forward Russell (Bob) Bowers and the Eagles came out 73-62 winners over Delaware in an East Coast Conference game at Fort Myer.
It was American's second straight victory and increased the Eagles' season record to 4-3.
American has six new people among its first 10. Williams figured Ross, a 6-foot-6 junior college transfer, and Knoche, a former All-Met from Woodson High and transfer from Colorado, would work in well after the first of the year.
But injuries to forward Leon Kearney and guard Chris Dye have forced them into starting roles the past two games. Bowers scored 28 points against the 1-3 Blue Hens. Ross contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Point guard Robin Hoey, in his first season at AU, scored a career-high 21 points.
The two new starters, plus Bowers, where the key AU players down the stretch. Delaware, which played good, consistent man-to-man defense, closed a 13-point deficit to three before American pulled away at the end.
It was 60-57 when Bowers, guarded closely by Delaware forward Tim Tompkins, converted a leaning turnaround jumper on the baseline. After a Hoey free throw, Knoche, who scored 21 points, drew a charging foul.
He made both free throws and the Eagles had a safe lead, 67-57.
"I didn't think Ross and Knoche would be playing this soon," said Williams. "We've kind of had to force feed them with the injuries."
Ross' 15 rebounds were vital because this Delaware team had been equal rebounding with Navy, a team that AU had trouble with on the boards. AU lost the rebounding war, 37-29, but the Eagles overcame it with some nifty presses and intense zone defense turnover.
American got sloppy on offense early in the second half. Williams thought it might have been tough for his players to keep full concentration because semester exams are in progress. Delaware, led by center Pete Mullenberg, started getting inside shots against AU's 3-2 zone.
Mullenberg scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half.
Williams wanted a fast-paced game, the opposite of what Delaware's Don Rainey was trying to do. The Eagles did not get their fast pace, except for the stretch of the first half when they opened a nine-point lead.
It was no wonder Williams wanted a fast pace. In Williams' two seasons as head coach, the Eagles have an 11-6 record in games in which they have scored at least 80 points; the victory last night makes them 5-8 in games in which they have scored fewer than 80.