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Villanova’s second half surge buries Marquette in 96-64 win

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The Wildcats heated up from deep and hardly looked back in a season-high 96-point outing.

NCAA Basketball: Roman Legends Classic-Villanova vs Hartford David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova might be known for its guard-heavy tradition, but for the second-straight game a forward stole the show.

Senior point guard Collin Gillespie would rather shed the positional labels.

“They’re basketball players, we don’t classify them as bigs or guards, or tell somebody you can’t shoot, you can’t dribble,” Gillespie said. “We have basketball players that can catch and shoot, and make plays for his teammates. Jeremiah did a great job of making the right decisions tonight.”

Robinson-Earl posted a team-high 27 points and was near-perfect from the floor, shooting 10-of-11 overall and 5-of-5 from deep.

His hot hand on the floor was contagious, as the rest of his teammates also heated up throughout the second half. Once the Villanova Wildcats got going after the break, they hardly looked back and buried the Marquette Golden Eagles in a 96-64 victory on Wednesday night.

Robinson-Earl entered with a 27.3% clip from beyond the arc, but could this be the start of him turning the page from long range?

Midway through the second half, he hit three-straight shots from the perimeter and helped start a run to put the game out of reach.

“I’m a big Kobe guy, and he just talks about when you take thousands of shots in that same situation, you’re so confident going into the game and don’t have to think about it,” Robinson-Earl said. “Just was making the right decision. I felt the right decision was to take the shot, so I just stay confident as possible. ... If you miss one, keep shooting the ball like you’re going to make the next one.”

He and the ‘Cats shot with confidence in the second half and hardly missed, shooting a blistering 70.0% overall, including a 10-of-15 showing from beyond the arc.

Villanova’s entire starting five scored in double figures, as the ‘Cats posted a season-high 96 points in the win.

Collin Gillespie finished with a 16-point, 11-assist double-double. Jermaine Samuels had 14 points and four rebounds. Caleb Daniels and Justin Moore had 12 points apiece.

“It’s a really special part of our team that any given guy can go off on any night,” Robinson-Earl said. “So, the other team’s scouting report could be focused on maybe two of the guys on our team, so then it’s more open for the other guys. So, it was just making the right decisions and just being confident with one another.”

Although Villanova led for a vast majority of the game, Marquette kept it close to start, especially throughout the first half.

“Our first half defense wasn’t as acceptable as we’d normally like it to be, so that was a big important detail for us going into the second half, and I think we did a really good job at that,” Robinson-Earl said.

It also helped that a three from Daniels just before the buzzer gave the Wildcats a 40-32 edge at the break.

“We didn’t play well down the stretch there in the first half,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. “And that gave them a little juice at halftime. ... I do think we felt good coming in the half.”

Afterwards, the Wildcats found their rhythm from deep, starting the second half with a 7-of-9 showing from long range.

On top of their hot start offensively, the Wildcats buckled down on the other end of the court. Villanova forced 16 Marquette turnovers for the entire game, converting those takeaways into 30 points.

“All of our focus was on defense coming out of halftime,” Gillespie said. “We knew we had to get stops and just defend and rebound, and we knew that the offense would just come within the flow of things.”

Villanova pushed its lead to as high as 33 points and coasted to the final buzzer.

Freshman forward Dawson Garcia paced the Golden Eagles and impressed with a game-high 28 points. D.J. Carton finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, and four assists.

“He’s a talent, he is a real talent,” Wright said of Garcia. “He’s got outstanding size, which a lot of basketball players do, but there’s not a lot of basketball players at that size with that skill. He shoots threes, he puts it on the floor, he makes his free throws, he drives it. He’s got a lot of game.”

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 13-2 overall and 8-1 in Big East play. The Golden Eagles drop to 9-11 and 5-9 in the conference.

They turn their attention to a top 25 showdown and their first meeting with the Creighton Bluejays on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.