American University's utilized its full-court press early in the second half to help increase a seven-point lead to an 80-62 victory over Marist tonight in the first round of the Manufacturers Hanover Classic.
In Saturday's 8 p.m. championship final, American (3-0) will play host Iona (2-3), which defeated Loyola of Baltimore (0-3), 99-76. The consolation is at 6.
Senior guard Ed Sloane, American's leading scorer, probably will not play in the championship game. He aggravated a groin injury late in the first half and did not play again.
Marist took a 10-4 lead, but the Eagles pulled even at 10 on Gordon Austin's two foul shots and with 3:40 left in the half held a 28-22 lead on a basket by guard Darnell Swinton.
The Eagles opened the second half with the full-court press, forcing six turnovers in the first 3 1/2 minutes. Marist had 26 turnovers in the game, compared to 11 for American.
Behind the shooting of Mark Nickens, who scored 10 of his 14 points that half, the Eagles took command, opening a 59-49 lead with 10:42 remaining.