It was the kind of game that made you think: only 15 days until the start of Big East play for Villanova.
The 10th-ranked Wildcats didn't exactly dazzle the announced crowd of 12,055 in their season debut Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Center, but they had too much Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns for Delaware and defeated the Blue Hens, 78-59.
Villanova (8-1), like Delaware (5-3), was playing its first game since the end of final exams, and the sloppy play showed on both sides. The teams combined for 45 fouls (28 for the Blue Hens), 31 turnovers (17 for 'Nova), and four technical fouls.
Even after Fisher (21 points) and Wayns (14) sparked a 14-0 second-half run that served as one of Villanova's few moments of excellent play, the Wildcats still had to stave off a Delaware run that narrowed a 19-point lead to eight with 8 minutes, 42 seconds remaining.
Thanks to another run, this one 12-3, the Wildcats had enough to win going away. Coach Jay Wright said there is room for improvement, but he noted that his team is rebounding well, as evidenced by a 43-27 edge Saturday night.
"Some things we're doing well consistently, like rebounding," Wright said. "We were winning games last year but not rebounding well. We've got a lot of games where Fish and Maalik aren't making shots, but we're winning.
"So I'm really not worried about it, honestly. I don't think we're as good as our ranking - I really don't - but I think we'll get there."
Fisher, who added six assists and three steals, said there are "no excuses" for Villanova's performance to date.
"Coming out of a big power conference and being one of the top teams, people think we should be winning by a lot of points," he said. "But we were playing against a tough team in Delaware. They came out and played scrappy. We've got a lot of room to get better."
The Blue Hens, whose five-game winning streak was snapped, got 14 points from St. Joseph's transfer Jawan Carter, who shot just 2 of 11 from the field. They lost forward Josh Brinkley after he picked up his second technical foul with 1:03 remaining.
Jamelle Hagins starred for Delaware with 12 points, nine rebounds, and seven blocked shots.
Sophomore center Mouphtaou Yarou picked up a technical foul with 11 minutes to play when he used the sole of his sneaker on Delaware's Brian Johnson after Johnson had fallen to the court on a drive in the lane. Wright lifted him and kept him on the bench the rest of the game.
"I said to him that it was getting chippy in there," Wright said. "Corey Stokes and Fish both said to me, 'Coach, it's getting crazy. We've got to keep playing and not talk.' They kept telling Mouph that, but he's young and he got worked up. He got upset with getting fouled, and you can't do that."
The Wildcats got a big lift in the first half from freshman James Bell, who has been slow starting out because of September surgery to relieve stress fractures in both legs. Bell had 10 points in the half, eight coming in a two-minute span.
"I'm really happy to have him . . . especially in the first half, thank God, or we'd have been in trouble," Wright said. "What's really amazing is that he has not done anything since June. He's really trying to get his legs under him. He's still got a lot to learn and get his rhythm back."
Bell said: "At first, when I came back, it was just getting my legs under me. Now it's just focusing on going hard the whole time I'm out there."
Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org.