Dylan Painter dominated inside and out on his way to 14 points as Delaware took control early and downed Drexel, 81-77 at the Daskalakis Athletic Center. The former Villanova big man hit a pair of three-pointers as he scored 10 of the Blue Hens’ first 18 points. He converted a tough finish inside at the 6:36 mark of the first half as Delaware (11-5, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association) went up by eight en route to a 43-32 halftime lead.

Xavier Bell hit four three-pointers on his way to 18 points, and Melik Martin had 16 points off the bench for the Dragons (6-6, 1-1).

Nelson stars in return home

Jameer Nelson Jr. knows a thing or two about playing in Philadelphia. After his father put together arguably the greatest season in St. Joseph’s history, the former Haverford School star is finding a place at Delaware. The 6-foot-1 junior guard had the final seven points of the first half for the Blue Hens. He converted an and-one past Camren Wynter, then on the ensuing possession recorded a steal and finished at the other end.

After beginning his career at George Washington, Nelson is blossoming in his first season under former Archbishop Carroll standout Martin Ingelsby. He poured in 22 points, giving him 12 double-digit scoring games this season. He poured in a career-high 29 points earlier this season against Iona, a team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament a season ago. He led Delaware with 13.9 points per game coming in.

Dragons struggle without Butler

Drexel had few answers for the Blue Hens, and the absence of James Butler was evident from the opening tip. The 6-8 forward, who is averaging 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds, missed Tuesday’s game with a lower-body injury he suffered against Towson. Without their starting big man, the Dragons could not contain Painter, who had a game-high nine rebounds.

The Blue Hens had 30 points in the paint and shot 52.6% from the floor. Ryan Allen had a big night with a game-high 23 points and did most of his damage in the lane where he was met with little resistance. Drexel went on a 14-4 run late in the second half to cut the lead to eight but the Blue Hens were able to maintain their advantage.