MILWAUKEE (Ticker) -- It did not come easily, but No. 23 Marquette won its fifth straight Blue and Gold Classic.
Travis Diener scored 26 points and handed out nine assists as the Golden Eagles overcame a slow start to edge Valparaiso, 75-70.
Scott Merritt added 16 points for Marquette (3-0), which fell behind, 11-0, after four minutes and trailed at the break, 34-30.
"We never panicked when it was 11-0," said Marquette coach Tom Crean, who improved to 10-0 in the Classic. "We just kept coming back and coming back. We are learning what it is like to have that Final Four tag on our back."
But nursing a 70-69 advantage with 90 seconds remaining, the Golden Eagles sank their free throws and prevented the Crusaders from making a basket down the stretch as they improved to 2-0 on a five-game homestand.
"We wished we could end the game on that 11-0 run that we started with," said Crusaders coach Homer Drew, whose team was outrebounded, 37-24. "The big difference in the game was rebounding. We are going to get better at that."
Diener was named tournament MVP, although he committed a pair of turnovers after having none in the first two games.
"(Diener) just continues to get better," Crean said. "He has played three games now and only turned the ball over twice. The unselfishness begins with Travis and Scott. When you get unselfish players that move the ball around, it is infectious."
Roberto Nieves had 17 points to pace Valparaiso (1-1), which cruised past Arkansas-Monticello in its first-round Classic matchup on Friday, 72-53.
Ali Berdiel added 12 points and Dan Oppland and Joaquim Gomes 11 apiece for the Crusaders, who made 11-of-21 3-pointers but were outscored in the paint, 40-28.
"The way Valpo came out and played extremely hard, I think a lot of teams are looking at us on the schedule and circling the date," said Diener, whose team lost to Kansas in the Final Four last season. "We have to come out with a certain focus and energy and match that."
Marquette took its first lead, 39-38, on a three-point play by Diener 3:38 into the second half. His driving layup made it 74-69 down the stretch.