ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Even after Marquette squandered a 14-point lead in the second half, coach Buzz Williams was glad his team got tested.
Darius Johnson-Odom scored 20 points and Jae Crowder had a tiebreaking dunk with 1:09 left, leading the Golden Eagles (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) to a 59-57 victory over Norfolk State in the Paradise Jam championship game Monday night.
"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," 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."
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. Johnson-Odom was defending Williams at the top of the key on Norfolk State's final possession when Williams found center Kyle O'Quinn wide open behind the arc.
O'Quinn, who swished a 3-pointer near midcourt early in the second half, had an open look to win it, but his shot went off the back of the rim with about 8 seconds to go. The Golden Eagles grabbed the rebound and held on.
"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 against the Spartans. "The MVP award is nice, but I'm nothing without my team. The guys around me made this happen."
After Norfolk State called a timeout with 16 seconds left, 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."
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.
"Those guys were good. I have no doubt that Norfolk State will be in the tournament this year," Johnson-Odom said.
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 TCU 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," Buzz 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."