Led by guards Mike Sampson and Dale Spears, American University came from behind to defeat North Carolina-Wilmington, 72-63, before 2,298 at Bender Arena last night.

The Eagles (11-12, 6-4 in the Colonial Athletic Association) won for the fourth straight time overall and for the third time in a row in the CAA. The Seahawks are 11-11, 6-4.

American looked as if it merely was going through the motions the first 23 minutes, but used a 15-2 spurt early in the second half to take the lead for good.

"That was as explosive as we've been this season," Eagles Coach Ed Tapscott said. "I don't know what it was in the first half. I told them at halftime they were lucky to still be in the game."

With the Eagles trailing by 38-29 with 17 minutes left, American went to a full-court pressure defense and gave the Seahawks fits. After the Eagles closed to 40-35 on Brock Wortman's three-pointer, Mike Sampson (23 points) scored the next 11 points.

He made an 18-foot jumper to put AU ahead, 41-40, then stole the ball for a layup that became a three-point play; it was 44-40 with 12:47 left.

Sampson, who was one for five for two points in the first half, also had five assists and four steals, and was seven for seven from the foul line. Later, the Seahawks closed to 59-56 with 5:17 remaining, but Sampson scored six straight points to put it away.

Spears finished with 11 of his 13 points in the second half and freshman Brock Wortman connected on six of seven shots from the floor for 14.

The Seahawks' Greg Bender had 16 points and nine rebounds, and Larry Houzer had 13 points.

AU did little right in the first half and trailed, 31-23, at halftime. But in the second half, the Eagles committed only three turnovers and made 14 of 17 free throws. They came into the game hitting only 60 percent from the foul line.

"We expected all along for them to go to the full-court press, but we didn't do a good job handling it," Seahawks Coach Robert McPherson said. "We let them back in the game and then the crowd got into it."

The Seahawks shot only 42 percent from the floor and were outscored by 49-32 in the second half.

In the first 20 minutes, the Eagles started slowly -- it took them more than three minutes to score -- got back in it, and then fell apart at the end.

With the game tied at 18, the Seahawks went on a 13-5 run to end the half. If it hadn't been for Wortman's long-range shooting (nine points in the first half), AU might have been out of it by halftime.