ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands—ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands - Going up against its best opponent thus far in the season, Mississippi knew it would have to control the transition game and shoot well. The Rebels weren't even close.
Senior forward Jae Crowder scored a team-high 25 points as No. 21 Marquette ran away with a 96-66 victory over Mississippi in the Paradise Jam semifinals on Sunday.
The Golden Eagles (4-0) will meet Norfolk State, a 66-53 winner over TCU, in the tournament championship today. It will be a rematch of last Monday's game in which Marquette won by 31 points.
Ole Miss (3-1) shot 25 of 78 from the floor and missed all 14 shots from beyond the arc in the first half. The Rebels were led by Terrance Henry, who finished with 19 points while Maurice Aniefiok chipped in with 10.
"Every game, I'm amazed because we have been taking some horrible shots," Mississippi coach Andy Kennedy said. "There were a lot of good looks tonight that would just not go. It was very disturbing."
The Rebels committed 19 turnovers compared to just nine assists. Kennedy said the difference in the game was Mississippi's inability to attack or defend while in the transition.
"We knew they would be attacking early and often and we couldn't stop them early on," he said. "For the first time this year, we were going up against superior players on the open floor and we did not respond."
Crowder, a senior forward, made 9 of 11 shots from the field including two 3-pointers. He also shot 5 of 7 from the free-throw line and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
"Getting off to a fast start was part of the game plan," Crowder said. "We have a lot of weapons and anyone can step up any night on this team. Everyone is getting chances so when your number is called, you have to step up."
This was the fourth straight game the Golden Eagles have scored more than 90 points. On an effective and balanced 10-man rotation for Marquette, Crowder has led the team in minutes played this season.
Marquette coach Buzz Williams said there is no real correlation between minutes played and points scored but it was the second time in four games Crowder has paced the offensive attack.
"I think Jae in a lot of ways is the heart and soul of what we do on both ends of the floor," Williams said. "We function with a lot better rhythm when he's playing. I don't know how many minutes he had or points he scored but how in sync we are typically means he's in the game."
Vander Blue's fast-break dunk fueled a 13-0 scoring run Marquette used to take command in the first half. The Golden Eagles opened a 51-29 halftime lead, scored the first six points of the second half and never looked back.
One game after he scored a career-high 26 points, Blue, a sophomore, finished with 11 for Marquette. Senior guard Darius Johnson-Odom added 20 for the Golden Eagles while Davante Gardner converted all nine of his free throw attempts and finished with 15 points.