Mike Sampson doesn't have very big shoulders but each time his team is in trouble, the 6-foot, 170-pound senior tries to carry the load. Last night was one of those occasions.

Just when it appeared American University was headed toward its fourth loss in five games, Sampson scored his team's final eight points, including a twisting lefthanded layup with 23 seconds left as the Eagles stole a 72-71 decision from Dartmouth last night at Fort Myer.

"Mike takes a lot on his shoulders and they aren't very big shoulders," AU Coach Ed Tapscott said. "His quickness and his heart make up for a lot. This was a character win and we needed one of those. We didn't shoot well but we scrapped and scrapped and got a few steals and we stole one. It's about time."

The Eagles (2-3) trailed throughout the contest and after a breakaway basket by Dartmouth's leading scorer, Jim Barton (29 points), gave his team a 71-64 lead with 1:01 to play, things looked bleak for AU.

But Sampson hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to four points with 54 seconds to play. Dartmouth's James Blackwell missed the front end of a one-and-one bonus situation but the Big Green came up with the rebound. But Brendan O'Sullivan hit a backwards reverse layup and the Eagles grabbed the loose ball.

Sampson, who finished with 21 points and three assists, drove the middle and somehow managed to get off a shot despite a number of swinging arms. Sampson was fouled on his layup and made the free throw to complete the three-point play with 36 seconds remaining.

Sampson and Brock Wortman double-teamed Barton near mid-court and stole the ball. Sampson grabbed the loose ball and headed for the basket. Two Big Green defenders got back to contest Sampson but he slipped inside both and tossed up a left-handed shot that went off the glass and into the basket, and the Eagles were ahead for the first time since the opening minutes.