The first half of Boo Bowers' one-man show never was worse. The second half never was better.

Bowers, American University's do-everything forward, scored five points in the first half, then added 31 in the second, including the winning basket with three seconds left, as the Eagles (9-7) edged Rider College (4-10), 71-69, in the East Coast Conference game last night before 700 noisy fans at Fort Myer.

"That's the worse half I've played at AU," the 6-foot-5 junior said. "I was really embarrassed. I wanted to stay in the locker room."

He probably wasn't alone. Based on their first-half performance, all the Eagles could have gone home and not been missed. They made nine of 36 shots, were outrebounded, 28-23, and committed nine turnovers to six. Somehow, they still were in the game, trailing by only 33-25.

Bowers, the team's heart and sould, had gone two for nine from the field, one for two from the foul line, and grabbed only two rebounds. His only positive contribution had been passing Kermit Washington for fourth place on the Eagle all-time scoring list. But his streak of scoring 21 points or more in 12 straight games appeared in jeopardy, and his chances of becoming the fourth AU player to score 1,500 points seemed nil.

"My legs felt weak," and I was playing really lazy," Bowers admitted. "I knew I wasn't moving for the ball very well.

After Rider took a 39-29 lead, then had it reduced to 41-35, AU's main man took over. After Dennis Ross banked home a two-pointer for American, Bowers scored the next nine points. When he was through, the Eagles led, 46-41, and seemed to have control of the situation.

But Rider regained the lead at 51-19, and, despite bursts of four and seven points by Bowers, kept it until Bowers tied the game at 69 with 1:35 to go. Then, after Ross blocked a shot by Al Baptiste, who had tormented the Eagles with 30 points, AU had a final chance for redemption.

The Eagles passed the ball around for more than a minute, then called time with 14 seconds left. Everyone in the gym knew who would take the final shot.

Leon Kearney 6-foot-5 senior forward for AU, has been suspended indefinitely from the team by Williams. Kearney, the team's second-leading scorer last year with a 9.9 average, had started five of the last six games and was averaging 7.1 points per game this season.