PHILADELPHIA – After Villanova slogged through another nonconference victory, Corey Fisher offered no excuses.
He knows it's not enough to win — the Wildcats are expected to win big.
For now, the "W'' will have to do.
Fisher scored 21 points and Maalik Wayns had 14 to lead No. 10 Villanova to its fourth straight win, 78-59 over Delaware on Saturday night.
"We've got a lot of room to get better," Fisher said. "It's early in the year. That's what we've got practice for."
The Wildcats (9-1) used a 14-0 run early in the second half to deny Delaware its first win against a Top 25 team. The Wildcats continued to produce long stretches of lethargic basketball and do just enough to beat inferior competition.
The Wildcats haven't looked like a dominant top-10 team most of the season. They lost to the only ranked team they played (then-No. 24 Tennessee), then beat Saint Joseph's by 11, Penn by 12 and La Salle by three.
Last year, the Wildcats rolled through those November-December games, scoring in the 90s and thumping teams by 20 points.
"What did that do for us?" coach Jay Wright said.
Not much, as they slumped late in the season and were bounced out of the second round in the NCAA tournament a year after making the Final Four. With three seniors in the starting lineup, Wright sees this year's Wildcats building toward their best basketball in March when records really matter.
"I still don't think we're as good our ranking, I really don't, but I think we could get there," Wright said.
James Bell scored eight of his 10 points in the first half to hold off the Blue Hens (5-3).
Jawan Carter scored 14 points and Jamelle Hagins had 12. Hagins, who entered fourth in Division I with 3.6 blocks per game, had seven against Villanova.
Delaware is 0-26 against Top 25 teams.
"We competed, but we came here to win the game, so it's a great disappointment that we lost," Delaware coach Monte Ross said.
The Blue Hens gave Villanova fits for most of the first 30 minutes. They had two serious runs. The first came early in the second half when Josh Brinkley's jumper and D.J. Boney's three-point play cut the lead to 39-34.
The Wildcats, who survived 17 turnovers, thwarted that spurt with a decisive 14-0 run. Wayns and Fisher hit consecutive 3s and Corey Stokes scored on a twisting reverse layup to start the run. Fisher ended it with a steal and fastbreak layup for a 53-34 lead.
It wasn't enough to put away a Blue Hens team trying to join Illinois-Chicago and Oakland as recent upset winners over Top 25 teams. The Blue Hens cut it to 54-46, but Fisher delivered on defense with another steal and kicked out to Wayns for a 3-pointer and a 57-46 lead.
The Blue Hens were finally out of gas against a team picked to finish second in the Big East.
Villanova played the first of seven games this season at the Philadelphia 76ers' arena. With students on break and Delaware not inspiring the mad rush of ticket sales that the Big East teams generate, the arena was absolutely lifeless.
Wright even thanked the band members and cheerleaders who stayed on campus for creating some noise for a spell.
"It is a challenge and it's something you have to get used to," Wright said.
There's one more tune-up for Villanova on Wednesday at Monmouth before the big city showdown against Temple on Dec. 30.
Late in the first half, Delaware made only three baskets but was 11 for 11 from the free-throw line to keep the score within seven.
Bell came on strong for the first time his freshman season to help the Wildcats. He scored eight straight points in the first half and his driving layup late in the half gave Villanova a 30-20 lead — the Wildcats led 34-24 at halftime.
"We haven't been clicking," Wright said.
There are still two months for the Wildcats to find their way.