For the first time since the Gettysburg undress, when American University won, 103-64, the Eagles found a team they could handle inside and worked their layup drill to perfection last night.

The result was a 96-86 victory over hapless George Washington before 750 at Smith Center.

The conductor of the Eagle express, Russell Bowers, gave a clinic in offensive board work and inside power moves on his way to an easy 31 points and eight rebounds. Robin Hoey, the man who turns the key to the Eagle engine, had 18 points and six assists.

In winning its fourth straight, AU (4-2) shot 51 percent (37 or 73), made 22 of 29 free throws and had 13 steals. The Eagles had only one more rebound, 34-33, but that hardly was indicative of their domination of the backboards.

"Statistics lie. Our rebounding is sad," said GW Coach Bob Tallent, staring at the sheet of figures. "This is the only team we play all year that's our size. We shoot 58.8 percent from the floor and still get beat by 10. We're so young, when we fall behind by 10, we think we can't catch up.

GW (1-4) dug itself a hole early. Turnovers and the inability to keep Bowers and his mates from rebounding put GW behind by 17 points at the half and by as many as 23 late in the second half.

"The guys aren't going to grow, so evryone has to help out on the boards," said AU Coach Gary Williams. "We didn't steal the ball that much, but we forced them to play at a quicker tempo. Boo was, well, good, and Robin, Ed Sloane) and Mark (Nickens) all played great. Their play in the 1-3-1 forced those errors and we got a lot of layups."

With only guards guards Randy Smith and Wilbert Skipper, who each had 18 points, and Curtis Jeffries (16 points) able to connect from beyond AU's zone, GW couldn't overcome AU's large lead.

AU was winging, 89-70, after Juan Jones, who had only one field goal coming onto this contest, got one of his three baskets on a dunk with 4:25 to play.

But Skipper and Curtis Smith sparked a rally to close GW to 94-84. Then Bowers threw down another dunk with 55 seconds left and Tallent was assured of his worst start since taking over at GW six years ago.

The Colonials, who had played nearly flawless basketball in rallying from a 17-point deficit last week against Georgetwon before losing in double overtime, 84-82, appeared badly flawed in the first 20 minutes this time.

Many of their passes ended up in the hands of the ball-hawking Eagles, who scored 20 of their 51 points that half following steals and turnovers.

Jefferies, a slick reserve point guard still hobbled by bursitis in his right knee, made two outside jump shots to help his team close to 16-14 with 10:58 to play in the half.

Then AU, having little problem getting inside for easy shots and offensive rebounds, took off again. Hoey drilled in two 16-foot shots and Bowers threw down a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Hoey. Another GW turnover and a foul sent Hoey to the line and the point guard sank two of his 14 first-half points for a 24-16 lead with 7:55 on the clock.

But Jeffries found enough room in the quick-moving AU zone to make two more jump shots, and Randy Davis, good on five of seven shots for 12 points that half, sank an 18-footer and GW was right back at 26-22 with 7:27 to play in the half.

Then GW lost the ball six straight times and missed four shots in the next three minutes. AU flexed its muscles and took a 37-22 advantage.

GW finally setttled down. But AU, which shot a respectable 51 percent in the first half and had a 21-16 rebounding edge, didn't. Sloane got two baskets on drives down the center of the GW defense and Nickens closed the half with two free throws. AU went to the locker room with a 51-34 lead.