Freshman forward Charlie Hickman, who nearly decided to attend American University upon graduating from a high school in suburban Philadelphia, led a strong second-half effort today that carried Drexel to an 81-75 East Coast Conference victory over the Eagles.

Hickman scored a team-high 21 points. His most important contribution was in scoring 12 of 16 points in the stretch to give the hosts a 71-63 lead with 4:38 to play. It was AU's first loss to Drexel since 1979, a 66-55 defeat in the conference playoffs. It was AU's first regular-season league loss in two years.

American (5-5) led by as many as five points midway through the first half, but a technical foul on Coach Gary Williams turned into a three-point play and Drexel (6-5) had gained a 24-24 tie with 7:58 remaining in the half. The Eagles took a 43-39 lead into the locker room.

American enjoyed its last lead with 11:23 to play on a Juan Jones slam dunk. From that point, the Dragons, behind Hickman, outscored their opponents, 9-4, to take a 66-59 lead with 7:43 to play.

"We got by in the first half because we shot well," Williams said. "When you miss, you have to play good defense. We didn't."