After almost 10 minutes last night, American University and the University of the District of Columbia had combined for 12 points on five-of-19 shooting and 12 turnovers.

There were air balls and botched layups and more air balls.

But things improved in a hurry for the Eagles, who survived the early horror show and won their season opener -- and first official game under new coach Chris Knoche -- over the Division II Firebirds, 79-51, before 1,579 at Bender Arena.

In extending its home winning streak to 14 games, American now is 31-3 at the arena since it opened in January 1988. Its last loss at Bender was to Richmond, 61-57, in February 1989.

In this case, the home court had nothing to do with the result, except maybe in one instance -- a male fan behind the basket opened his overcoat during a UDC free throw and revealed women's lingerie. The shot was no good.

Sophomore swingman Brian Gilgeous led the Eagles with 18 points and sophomore forward Craig Sedmak had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Senior guard Fred Tillman added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists.

Freshman Chima Igwe paced the Firebirds (1-3) with 20 points and 10 rebounds in the first meeting between the schools since the 1957-58 season when UDC was known as D.C. Teacher's College.

Despite the early sloppiness, Knoche was pleased with his team's overall effort.

"I know intensity when I see it and I know effort when I see it," he said. "I saw it and I feel good about it."

The Firebirds had a 4-2 lead after five minutes on Igwe's baskets, but the Eagles responded from their woeful start with six straight points to take the lead for good.

"I think we had a lot of anxiety built up after the way we played" in an exhibition loss to Sparta Prague two weeks ago, Gilgeous said. "Being a young team, we didn't handle the start of the game well. I know I didn't. I was really glad when coach took me out."

The teams followed with six straight misses, but American's Byron Hawkins made a three-point shot from the top of the key to make it 11-4.

UDC was within 26-16 with 3:25 left in the half, but the Eagles scored on nine consecutive possessions during a 17-2 run to extend the lead to 43-18.

Bowie State 90, Columbia Union 83: Rayford Young scored 17 points and Andre Lambert and Aquila Matthews each added 12 to lead the hosts (2-2). Columbia Union (1-3) was led by Maurice Nelson and Damon Allen, who each scored 22 points.

Roanoke 98, Catholic 69: Robert Lineburg scored 20 points and Roanoke overcame a slow start to post the victory in Salem, Va. Derek Otten scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds and Mike Murphy scored 11 for Roanoke (4-0). The Cardinals (0-2) were led by Jay Franklin with 17 points and Jay Jackson with 13.

Alvernia 99, Capitol 56: Charles Williams scored 22 points and Corey Kemp 19 to lead the Reading, Pa., school (5-0) to victory over the Laurel school at High Point High. Capitol (2-2) was led by Shane Smith's 17 points.