Villanova, PA (Sports Network) – Corey Fisher scored 24 points, and the sixth- ranked Villanova Wildcats built an early lead and finished off the Bucknell Bison late in a 68-52 season-opening win at The Pavilion.
Maalik Wayns added 15 points for the Wildcats (1-0), who earned a No. 2 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament before falling to 10th-seeded Saint Mary’s in the second round. Corey Stokes added 11 points in the victory.
Darryl Shazier tallied 12 points for the Bison (0-1), who only won 14 games last season, although that doubled their win total from 2008-09. Mike Muscala and Cameron Ayers added 10 points apiece in defeat.
Villanova struggled to get its offense going in the first half, but it held Bucknell to just 16 first-half points to remain the frontrunner.
The Bison had an early 8-5 lead after a Bryson Johnson three 3 1/2 minutes into the contest, but the Wildcats scored 11 of the next 13 points to move ahead permanently.
Stokes’ three ended the surge with Villanova holding a 16-10 lead at the midway point of the period, and Bucknell couldn’t cut into its deficit after going nearly the final seven minutes of the half scoreless.
The Wildcats scored only seven points during that timeframe, but a free throw by Fisher with 2:21 left extended the margin to 28-16 at the break.
Villanova still had a comfortable lead at 43-31 with 12 1/2 minutes to play, but Bucknell scored seven of nine points to trim their deficit to seven, 45-38, on a Ayers bucket two minutes later.
The Wildcats, though, responded with the next six points — five by Fisher — before three-pointers by Ayers and G.W. Boon again got Bucknell within striking distance at 54-46 with just over six minutes left.
Villanova finally took complete control, scoring nine of the next 11 points over two minutes, and Wayns hit a pair of shots, including a layup with four minutes left that pushed the advantage to 63-48.
The Bison did not recover from the deficit.
Villanova leads the all-time series, 15-9…The Wildcats next action comes in the first round of the 2010 NIT Season Tip-Off against Marist on November 16. They are one of the four top seeds, along with Tennessee, Wake Forest and UCLA.