For 3 minutes 43 seconds last night, the Towson State basketball team must have thought Fort Myer was under siege. But it was only the American University team running off 26 straight points in a mighty display of full-court pressure.

That early second-half surge obliterated a three-point Towson lead and the Eagles (18-4) won the non-conference game going away, 97-78, before 1,150 fans. The surge, which included 10 Towson State turnovers, was led by Ed Sloane, whose play has been hampered by an injured thumb.

Sloane scored 17 of his career-high 25 points during the Eagle run. AU point guard Robin Hoey, had 21 points for the third straight game and Mark Nickens scored 20.

"That probably was the most explosive run I've ever seen," said AU Coach Gary Williams. "They gave us everything we could handle in the first half. They shot 64 percent and didn't many 10-footers, either. But in the second half, I think that run took a lot out of them."

That's putting it mildly. Towson State, which had routed Howard by 23 points Monday night, looked unbeatable in the opening minutes. Jump shooters Donald Leslie (26 points), Tony Odrick (18 points, on nine-of-11 shooting from the floor) and Charles Lawler took turns aiming long shots over the AU zone. Towson led by as many as 10 points midway through the first half.

But AU's depth helped turn the game around. Williams shuttled his players in and out, pressing the hot-shooting Towson State players all over the court.

Tiger Coach Vince Angotti made only two substitutes in the waning minutes of the first half, and it cost his team later. While AU's speedy starters were taking a breather, the Eagle reserves cut into the tiring Tigers' 10-point advantage. Reserves Chris Knoche, Gordon Austin and Fernando Aunon all hit baskets to halp the hosts go ahead, 45-44, at halftime.

"They won the game for us, our people off the bench," Hoey said. "We lunched the first half and Towson took it to us. They had some good players."

The 15-minute break actually turned into a 20-minute rest after Angotti insisted the clock had knocked off five minutes. But it didn't help the tired Tigers. The visitors (11-13) opened the second half with four quick points to take a 48-45 lead. Next came the 3:43 Towson State would rather forget.

Sloane, a hustling 6-foot-3 sophomore from Mackin High, scored one basket after another. The Tigers could do nothing with the AU press and on 12 consecutive possessions either lost the ball on a turnover or threw up a wild 20-footer. The streak was finally ended on Sloane's steal and basket that sent AU ahead, 71-48, with 16 minutes to play.

"My thumb is much better. I think a lot of it was mental," said Sloane, who also had six rebounds. "I didn't know exactly how many points I had scored or what the score was. I just wanted the ball."

Angotti, who watched his team go from three up to 23 down in a hurry, said the press got to his team.

"When we were winning, we handled it," said Angotti. "Some of our passes were just caused by the press and our lack of poise."