There is only one team in the ECAC South with a younger lineup than American University, and there is only one team the Eagles can outplay inside. That team is East Carolina, which the Eagles beat, 88-79, last night at Fort Myer.

American forwards Steve Nesmith and Jim Lutz scored 22 and 19 points, respectively, and center Eric White had 18.

East Carolina, loser of 14 of its last 15, is the only team American has beaten in its last six games.

The Pirates, who start four sophomores and a junior, fell to 6-18 overall, 0-12 in the league.

American, whose tallest starters are Lutz and White at 6 feet 5, pushed the ball inside from the beginning, as they did in the earlier 79-62 victory over the Pirates. Point guard Mike Sampson (seven assists) did a good job getting the ball down low, and the Eagles (8-17 overall, 3-10 in the league) kept taking layups against East Carolina's unaggressive defensive interior.

"Eric and Steve were working pretty hard to post up, and we were getting easy shots from it," said Lutz. "Going inside is a luxury for us, and we took full advantage of it."

East Carolina, which has been outrebounded by an average of 10 per game by league opponents, was outrebounded, 29-22, by American. The Pirates have lived by the outside shooting of Curt Vanderhorst (28 points) and William Grady (21), and their 58 percent shooting helped them stay in the game last night.

Sampson and freshman guard Chuck West (career-high 19 points), however, proved adept at working the ball on the other end of the court. American took a 33-26 lead with 4:53 to go in the first half as Nesmith scored the last of his five consecutive baskets for the Eagles.

"It was a process of being patient," said American Coach Ed Tapscott. "I thought Eric did a real good job rebounding, and then he popped that little 10 and 12 foot jumper from the base line because he knew the guy guarding him (6-10 Leon Bass) wasn't going to chase him."

American led by 67-54 after Lutz's jumper with 9:10 remaining. With five minutes left, East Carolina Coach Charlie Harrison, frustrated with his front line, inserted a five-guard lineup.