ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands—Norfolk State nearly pulled off a huge upset in the Paradise Jam championship game.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 20 points and Jae Crowder had a tiebreaking dunk with 1:09 left, leading No. 16 Marquette to a 59-57 victory over the Spartans on Monday night.
After losing by 31 points to the same Big East squad a week earlier, Norfolk State rallied from a 14-point deficit in the second half and had a chance to win at the end. Kyle O'Quinn's open 3-pointer caromed off the back of the rim, however, and the Golden Eagles held on.
"Those guys were good. I have no doubt that Norfolk State will be in the tournament this year," Johnson-Odom said.
Marquette (5-0) never trailed and Johnson-Odom was selected tournament MVP after he scored at least 20 points in each game.
Crowder sparked a 10-2 run with consecutive 3-pointers. The surge lifted the Golden Eagles to a 47-33 cushion with 11:40 left, but Norfolk State (3-2) would not go quietly. The Spartans countered with two separate 7-0 spurts and tied it at 57 on a 3 by Pendarvis Williams with 2:03 remaining.
The dunk by Crowder put Marquette back in front, but Johnson-Odom missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 30 seconds left.
Norfolk State called a timeout with 16 seconds to go, and a play was drawn up for O'Quinn.
"Kyle was supposed to get the ball on a pick-and-pop because we wanted to tie the game," Spartans coach Anthony Evans said. "Time was running out and Penny fell to the floor. He found Kyle and he's someone that can knock it down. It was a good look. It didn't go down, but we'll take a lot away from this one."
Johnson-Odom was defending Williams at the top of the key on Norfolk State's final possession when Williams found O'Quinn wide open behind the arc.
The senior center, who swished a 3-pointer near midcourt early in the second half, had an open look to win it, but his shot was too strong and the Golden Eagles grabbed the rebound with about 8 seconds to go.
"Of course I wanted to hit the free throws, so I tried to make up for it with some defense on the last possession," said Johnson-Odom, who played a team-high 34 minutes. "The MVP award is nice, but I'm nothing without my team. The guys around me made this happen."
Crowder, who played the final 8 minutes with four fouls, finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
O'Quinn and Chris McEachin had 10 points each to pace the Spartans.
"This was the first time this year and there will be many more times from here that we will be put to the fire a little bit," Marquette coach Buzz Williams said. "That's good for us. This experience will grow us up. I'm thankful we were able to win, but this experience will be helpful for us later on."
The teams also met Nov. 14 at Marquette in a game that was affiliated with the Paradise Jam. But the result, a 99-68 rout for the Golden Eagles, had no influence in the single-elimination tournament.
According to NCAA rules, a team can play up to four games in multiteam events and that's why the extra game was added to the schedule. When they arrived on St. Thomas, each team had a clean slate in the tournament standings.
The Spartans defeated Drexel and Texas Christian to advance to the championship game, while the Golden Eagles rolled past Winthrop and Ole Miss.
"Playing a team twice in one week was weird and I've never done that in my career," Williams said. "Every now and again in Big East play, we'll play a common opponent twice in a 10-day or 12-day period, but to play a team at home and then at a neutral site one week later was a unique experience."