North Carolina-Wilmington, trailing by three with less than three minutes remaining, scored eight straight points and defeated American, 75-71, last night in an ECAC South basketball game at Fort Myer.

Bobby Jo Springer made four free throws and drew an offensive foul in the last 10 seconds as the Seahawks broke a three-game losing streak. UNC-Wilmington (7-6 overall, 2-3 in the league) played without Coach Mel Gibson, who was placed in traction several days ago because of a pinched nerve. Assistants Jim Tribbett and Bob Martin ran the team.

The loss was the third straight for American, which fell to 4-10 and has yet to win in four league games since joining the ECAC South.

American took a 66-63 lead with 2:52 to go after Jim Lutz (14 points) scored on an assist by Frank Ross. From that point, the Eagles unraveled against the Seahawks' triangle-and-two defense.

Brian Rowsom, who finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds, scored to bring the Seahawks to 66-65. Mark Gary's two free throws gave the Seahawks a lead they never lost

"We didn't play either of our regular defenses (man-to-man and 2-1-2 zone) very well in the first half, so we went to the triangle-and-two, which we use sparingly," said Tribbett. "I didn't think they (American) handled it very well, and then we started getting the big rebounds."

Springer, who came into the game averaging 11.4 points, finished with 19.

American led most of the second half behind Mike Sampson, who finished with a career-high 16 points and eight assists, and Ross (15 points).

"We played pretty well against a triangle-and-two when we took our time and passed the ball around," said American Coach Ed Tapscott. "But when we started hurrying the shots . . . . That's inexperience."