American University last night played its third straight game without leading scorer Frank Ross (16.7), who has a bruised left thigh. But the Eagles had enough offense to beat outmanned Towson State, which, because of injuries, had only seven players.

Senior Steve Nesmith had eight rebounds and a career-high 25 points and senior Jim Lutz tied his career high with 22 points as the Eagles won, 85-69, before 637 at Fort Myer.

AU (5-12) had lost five straight. The Eagles hold an 18-1 series edge over Towson (4-11), which never has won at Fort Myer.

"It was hard work and the coaches have confidence in me," Nesmith said.

The Eagles took a 4-2 lead and never trailed again. They led by 23-8 when the Tigers scored 12 straight points. But by halftime, AU led by 40-32.

Nesmith scored 11 points and Lutz 12 in the first half as the Eagles made 15 of 29 shots (51 percent). The Tigers made 12 of 22 (54 percent) and eight of 11 foul shots.

In the second half, Towson cut the deficit to 61-53 at the 8:44 mark but could come no closer.

"This was one of our best efforts offensively, considering we were playing without Ross," said American Coach Ed Tapscott. "We've been working on our zone offense, and tonight I thought we executed well. But you have to realize that Towson only had seven players and fatigue was a factor."

Bill Leonard, East Coast Conference rookie of the year last season, had a career-high 27 points for Towson. Teammate Roddy Kirk had 10 rebounds.