Wake Forest built a 20-point lead, taking advantage of American University's cold shooting and turnovers, and then held off a late Eagle charge tonight for an 81-72 victory.

American, trailing 60-42 with 10:04 remaining, ran off a 14-4 spurt behind freshman guard Ed Sloane of Mackin High of Washington, D.C., to pull to within eight, 64-56, with 5:56 remaining. Two Robin Hoey baskets and a Boo Bowers jump shot kept the Eagles close until the final minute, when Huey hit two jumpers to reduce the margin to 76-72 with 18 seconds left.

Wake Forest then clinched the game on the foul line, making five straight free throws in the final 15 seconds.

"I'm very proud of our players," said American Coach Gary Williams. "Being down 16 at halftime, it would have been very easy just to say, "Let's have a good time, go home and not come back." But they made a commitment at halftime to go out and try to win the game."

When American made its second-half run three players -- Sloane, Leon Kearney and Tom Pfotzer -- came off the bench to provide the lift. Kearney, a two-year starter before spraining his ankle, scored a season-high 17 points, and Sloane added a season-high 12, all in the final 20 minutes.

Bowers, the seventh-leading scorer in the nation with a 26.8 average, over-came a slow start to score 25 points, 17 in the second half.

Wake scored the game's first 10 points and too a 27-10 lead behind guard Mike Helms' eight points Helms finished with 21 points.

The Demon Deacons dominated the boards early and led, 40-24, at half-time.

In the first half, Wake Forest made 18 of 33 shots while the Eagles connected on only nine of 22.

Wake Forest is now 5-3, American 4-4.