American University's 78-59 victory over Division II opponent Randolph-Macon at Fort Myer last night was more important than a game of that stature normally is.
After having their 12-game winning streak snapped Wednesday night by Georgetown, the Eagles had to prove to themselves and local basketball watchers that this AU team (13-3) isis for real. They also had to prove that a two-point loss to Georgetown did not ruin what is shaping up as the best Eagle season since 1972-73.
"We had to make sure we weren't feeling sorry for ourselves after the Georgetown game," said AU Coach Gary Williams. "People said a lot of nice things about us after that game, but that couldn't help us a bit tonight. We had to get back that winning stride."
The Eagles seemed to reach full stride almost immediately. They took a 6-0 lead behind four points by point guard Robin Hoey, who made five of seven first-half shots and all of his 12 points before retiring to the bench in foul trouble.
It was Hoey who had his last-second, game-tying shot attempt blocked in the Georgetown game. He hit his first four shots last night and AU never trailed. The Eagles never played around with the Yellow Jackets (15-4) from Ashland, Va., whoho themselves found what it was like to have a winning streak snapped -- at seven.
"Those guys can shoot the ball," said Hoey, referring to his ninth-ranked opponents. "Winning No. 13 was foremost in my mind, but it's correct to say this was an important game to win and get back into winning ways again."
When the aggressive Hoey picked up his third foul late in the first half, sophomore Gordon Austin brought in his penetrating, free-wheeling passes and scoop shots, helping AU in the final 5:40 of the half run its rather close 27-21 lead to 40-25.
Austin scored 10 points and had six assistss in 23 minutes. He and Hoey played a lot together last night because Williams wanted to rest Eddie Sloane, who sprained his right thumb in practice Friday and had trouble handling the ball.
Although the first half belonged to guards Hoey and Austin, the second 20 minutes were reserved for the forwards.
Senior Dennis Ross score 12 of his 14 points (six-for-eight shooting) andnd high-scorer Mark Nickens scored nine of his 17 points and grabbed half of his 10 rebounds. Nickens, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Mackin High, is rounding into a solid all-court player in relief of all-America forward Boo Bowers, who missed his sixth straight game with an injured knee.
David Ridley also came off the bench to make three of four field-goal attempts and seven points, as the Eagles won their fifth home game in six appearances at Fort Myer.
The only resistance worth mentioning that AU faced came from Paul Gartlan, the Yellow Jackets' 6-4 senior forward, formerly of Bishop Ireton High School. Gartlan scored 22 points and had five assists, but also committed eight turnovers.