But don't get carried away, Howland warned. The young Bruins, despite winning three of their last four games, enter Pac-10 play with a league-worst 5-7 record.
"What he (Nelson) has to realize is (Pac-10) teams are going to come hard at him," Howland said. "He's got to improve his post defense."
It was Nelson's offense that led the Bruins against the Hornets (4-6). With UCLA up 12-10, Nelson helped spark a 14-0 run midway through the first half that put this one away.
"Our players did a great job recognizing" how hard Nelson was working, Howland said.
They started feeding Nelson the ball down low in a patient attack. As a result, UCLA finished with an 18-6 edge in assists and shot 52.0 percent (26 of 50) from the field.
Marcus Neal led Delaware State with 15 points. Frisco Sandidge added 12.
The Bruins grabbed their largest lead, 51-22, with 12:55 to play before Delaware State ended the game on a 27-15 run. Sandidge scored nine of his points during the run.
"It got a little sloppy then," said UCLA guard Michael Roll, who had a career-high seven rebounds.
Tyler Honeycutt and Nikola Dragovic scored 11 points apiece for a UCLA, which now opens Pac-10 play as one of only two conference teams with a losing record.
"We're just forgetting about the 12 games we've had," Roll said. "We're 0-0 now."
The Bruins will need Nelson, who has averaged 15.6 points over the last four games, to keep that offense coming.