VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Corey Fisher showed hustle with a head-first dive over the scorer's table only 5 seconds into the game. Later, Fisher showed he can replace departed All-America Scottie Reynolds with some clutch 3s down the stretch.
Fisher delivered big baskets late and scored 24 points, and Maalik Wayns had 15 to lead No. 6 Villanova to a 68-52 victory over Bucknell on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.Fisher helped the Wildcats break away from the pesky Bison with two late 3s that stretched a seven-point lead to 18. Fisher -- 8 for 16 from the field -- is expected to assume the late-game scoring and leadership held by Reynolds. Fisher scored 105 points in a ballyhooed New York City summer league game that sent expectations soaring on the Main Line."I think Fish in the second half, offensively when he started getting us going gave me a little reminder of Scottie," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "I think the team just needed to see him do what he did tonight and then get confidence. That's not there yet, but I think it was a start tonight for Fish."Corey Stokes scored 11 points for the Wildcats, who never found any consistent offense and couldn't shake the Bison until the waning minutes. The Wildcats led by only eight points with 6:10 left until Fisher scored some late baskets that gave them the cushion needed to win their 38th straight game at the Pavilion.The Wildcats have become NCAA tournament regulars under coach Wright thanks to a steady string of star guards. Fisher, Wayns and Stokes appear set to keep that going this season.Their big men stayed busy underneath, with Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou combining for 15 rebounds.Darryl Shazier led Bucknell with 12 points. The Bison went 8 for 22 on 3-pointers."That was a good start for us," Wright said. "They're a tough team. I think they'll be a contender for the championship of their league. You're not going to blow that team out. They're not going to let you."Villanova played without freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkston after he was charged this week with two counts of simple assault and harassment. He was involved in a weekend altercation that led to an assault report and will be held out of games until the university's review is completed.Pinkston can practice, but he was not on the bench.The Wildcats could have used an added dose of offense. They were streaky from the field and shot only 36 percent in the first half. They were sloppy, too, with nine turnovers in the half -- almost all self-inflicted."It's the first game, we're going to make mistakes," Fisher said. "We've still got a lot of room."With the Wildcats flailing, Bucknell was able to hang around even with its own struggles shooting the ball. Cameron Ayers and Bryan Cohen hit consecutive 3-pointers to make it 45-34.Ayers hit his second 3 to cut the lead to 8 and G.W. Boon hit one with 6:10 left to make it a 54-46 deficit.Fisher led the way from 3-point range, helping Villanova go 10 for 27, and putting the game away."It was a blur," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. "We cut it, then he hit two or three in a row."They settled down with the ball and seemed to find their style in the last 20 minutes. The Wildcats made only three turnovers and shot 47 percent in the second half, more than enough to hold off the brief Bison run.The Wildcats get tested early with an NBA-type of schedule ahead, including games on consecutive nights next week at the Pavilion.The schedule doesn't get easier for the Patriot League Bison, who play Marquette on Sunday."We tried to talk to our guys about embracing the process," Paulsen said.Wright improved to 6-0 against his alma mater. A three-year letterman, Wright averaged 6.4 ppg in 74 career games for the Bison and was their leading scorer as a junior (11.9 ppg).