American University's Russell (Boo) Bowers, one of the leading scorers in the nation, was declared out for three to six weeks yesterday because of a sprained right knee.

He suffered the injury to the knee's medial collateral ligament in AU's 74-58 victory over Delaware at Fort Myer Wednesday night.

The 6-foot-5, 505-pound senior, who has not missed a game because of an injury since his sophomore year in high school, said he was playing defense when, "I just turned and suddenly my knee went out. It was a freak accident."

Bowers was helping a teammate on a double-team in front of the Eagle bench midway in the second half and turned to run across court when he fell. He left the game, returned briefly, then took himself out.

"I felt something pop and the knee went," said Bowers, who was the third-leading scorer in Division I before the game. "It didn't hurt that much but I couldn't pivot or cut on it. It was just crazy the way it happened. There was no contact at all. I'm a bit down right now but I'm confident I'll be able to come back before the season is out."

Bowers was outfitted with a long leg cast to immobilize the knee. The cast will be removed in approximately three weeks and his knee will be reexamined to determine if surgery is needed.

The Eagles' win over Delaware was their eighth straight, tying a school mark.

Coach Gary Williams said Mark Nickens will start in Bowers' place Saturday night against Bucknell at Fort Myer.

"It's a shame this had to happen. Of course, his being out will hurt us but we're more concerned that it won't hurt his chances to make the pros," said Williams. "He's really worked hard to get where he is."

Bowers, who had 17 points before leaving the game, is averaging 25.5 points on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 84 percent from the line. His seven rebounds per game also leads the team. He has 18 assists and seven steals. He recently surpassed Wil Jones as the school's top scorer, with 2,052 points.

"We're having a good year and I want to come back to be a part of it," said Bowers. "I think I'll be back in time for the playoffs. With a little luck, I'll be back before."