Jordan Crawford finally mustered a smile.
After a sour experience in the NCAA Tournament two years ago with Indiana, he's back on March's biggest stage.
Now he wants to stay as long as possible.
"I'm taking every second in. I'm taking it all in," Crawford said. "I want to be here as long as I can."
Crawford, the brother of former UK star Joe Crawford, scored 17 of his 28 points in the second half and Xavier kept its run of tournament success going with a 65-54 victory over Minnesota in the first round of the West Regional on Friday in Milwaukee.
Xavier (25-8) will be in the second round for the fourth straight year, this time under first-year coach Chris Mack.
The Musketeers seemingly had every answer down the stretch against Minnesota, which had played its way into the tournament by winning seven of its previous 10 under Tubby Smith.
Smith was looking for his 30th NCAA Tournament win and first with his fourth program after stops at Tulsa, Georgia and Kentucky, but Minnesota lost for the fourth straight time in the first round to join early exits in 1999, 2005 and 2009.
After the game, Smith dismissed a report that he is close to taking over at Auburn, calling it "just talk."
Citing an unidentified source close to the situation, CBSSports.com reported that Auburn is "close" to hiring Smith. But the Minnesota coach denied that and said he has not been offered a job by any other school.
Smith said he was "looking forward to coming back to Minnesota."
Asked if he's been offered a job by any other school, Smith quickly said, "No. No, I haven't."
The Gophers (21-14) made the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year after just one appearance the previous decade — this despite losing three players expected to play key roles this season because of off-the-court issues.
"This team has really grown and matured," Smith said. "A lot of positive things have happened for us over the last couple of weeks — over the last month, as a matter of fact. That's what we're going to focus on going forward, that this is just another step of maintaining, continuing to grow the program.
"And there's some things we have to continue to do recruiting-wise, facility-wise, all kinds of things we can get better at. A lot of areas we have to get better at."
Gonzaga 67, Florida St. 60: It was Matt Bouldin's composure — and the 14 points he scored in the second half — that allowed the eighth-seeded Bulldogs to avoid squandering an 18-point lead and hang on for a victory over Florida State in Buffalo.
In finishing with 17 points, Bouldin made five of six free throws and had a key defensive rebound in the final 90 seconds as the Bulldogs (27-6) withstood the second-half rally by the Seminoles (22-10).
Steven Gray scored 15 points while Robert Sacre added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Zags, who were making their 12th straight tournament appearance and 13th overall.
Opening the second half down 35-19, Florida State started chipping away and finally got the crowd on its feet after Solomon Alabi hit two free throws to make it 51-44 with 6:37 remaining.
The Seminoles eventually cut the lead to 59-54 with 2:21 left. They had a chance to pull closer but Michael Snaer missed two free throws a minute later.
Bouldin pulled down the rebound and the Bulldogs made eight of 10 free throws to close out the victory.
Syracuse 79, Vermont 56: Wes Johnson had 18 points to lead five Syracuse players in double figures, and the top-seeded Orange beat Vermont in Buffalo.
Syracuse (29-4), playing without injured center Arinze Onuaku, avenged a stunning overtime loss to Vermont (25-10) in the 2005 tournament. The Orange will play eighth-seeded Gonzaga in the second round on Sunday.
Pittsburgh 89, Oakland 66: Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown had 17 points each, leading a total of six Panthers players who scored in double figures as third-seeded Pittsburgh shook off a slow start in Milwaukee.
Brown's strong performance off the bench was a boost for the Panthers (25-8), who are making their ninth straight NCAA appearance and have advanced to the round of 16 in five of the previous eight. They'll try to continue that streak Sunday against Xavier.
Center Keith Benson scored 28 points for the Golden Grizzlies (26-9).
Georgia Tech 64, Oklahoma St. 59: Gani Lawal scored 14 points, Derrick Favors came within a rebound of a double-double and the free throw-challenged Yellow Jackets scored their last 13 points at the line to hold off seventh-seeded Oklahoma State in Milwaukee.
The Yellow Jackets (23-12) didn't make a field goal the last 8:19 of the game. But they finished 24-for-25 from the line — pretty good numbers for a team that came in shooting less than 65 percent.
"They were a much more physical team than I had seen on tape. Very physical, very aggressive," Coach Travis Ford said. "They were able to take us out of some of our offensive things being aggressive."
Michigan State 70, New Mexico State 67: Thanks to Kalin Lucas' career night, Raymar Morgan's late help — and a huge assist from the officials — Michigan State is moving on.
Lucas scored a career-high 25 points and Morgan emerged from a quiet night by hitting key shots down the stretch as fifth-seeded Michigan State edged New Mexico State in Spokane.
Morgan broke a late tie with four straight points, then made two free throws with 18.6 seconds remaining with the aid of a rare and questionable lane-violation call.
New Mexico State Coach Marvin Menzies had to be restrained by his assistants from going after the officials after the wild ending.
Ohio State 68, UC Santa Barbara 51: Evan Turner took a back seat to slick shooter Jon Diebler and big forward Dallas Lauderdale, and Ohio State outlasted persistent UC Santa Barbara in Milwaukee.
Diebler scored 23 points and Lauderdale blocked a career-high eight shots and grabbed 12 rebounds for the second-seeded Buckeyes (28-7), who won without much offense from their top player. Turner was held to nine points while going 2-for-13 from the field.
Cornell 78, Temple 65: Cornell lived up to its billing as the best team to come out of the Ivy League in more than a decade, and now the senior-heavy Big Red have a chance for a nice tournament run.
"Everyone was saying we were Cinderella or it's an upset. Not us," sophomore Chris Wroblewski said after the 12th-seeded Big Red dominated Temple in Jacksonville.
Down to their last chance to experience success on college basketball's biggest stage, seniors Ryan Wittman, Louis Dale and Jeff Foote paced the school to its first win in five NCAA appearances.
Dale scored 21 points and Wittman, the Ivy League player of the year, had 20 for the Big Red, who led the nation in three-point shooting this season and have three other elements — strong guard play, experienced leadership and a 7-foot center in Foote — that make them a threat to play beyond the first weekend of the tournament.
Wisconsin 53, Wofford 49: Jon Leuer followed a huge jump shot with an even more critical steal on the other end, and the fourth-seeded Badgers eked out an ugly win over the 13th-seeded Terriers in Jacksonville.
Leuer finished with 20 points, including two free throws with 4.2 seconds remaining that sealed the victory, and sent the Badgers into the second round for the fourth consecutive year.
Wofford didn't help itself in the closing minutes. In addition to two turnovers, the Terriers missed two free throws.
Missouri 86, Clemson 78: Kim English and Keith Ramsey each scored 20 points, and Missouri's swarming defense lived up to its reputation during a victory over seventh-seeded Clemson in Buffalo.
Missouri's defense, small, swift and smart, played at a high level. It forced 20 turnovers, nabbing 15 steals. Everybody that played for Clemson had at least one turnover.
"When you play at that pace — we scored 86 points but only had nine turnovers. That's efficient basketball," Missouri Coach Mike Anderson said.
Missouri (23-10), the 10th seed, has won five straight opening-round games and will play Big East Tournament champion West Virginia in the second round Sunday.
West Virginia 77, Morgan State 50: After missing their first 11 attempts, the second-seeded Mountaineers eventually found their range — and have Kevin Jones to thank for leading the way.
The sophomore forward scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the first half to help West Virginia (28-6) roll in Buffalo.
"We always let teams get off to those huge leads and let them get confidence and that's where it hurts us," Jones said. "I'm just glad we could come out and stomp on them and not let them back into the game."
Jones went 4-for-4 for nine points during a decisive 21-4 run over a six-minute stretch in the first half.
Purdue 72, Siena 64: Purdue played the us-against-the-world game to open the NCAA Tournament. Us won.
"You got the president picking against you, so it's a different thing," Boilermakers senior Keaton Grant said of the national chorus — including Barack Obama — who expected 13th-seeded Siena to beat the Boilermakers because Robbie Hummel is out. "We were very aware, and just used it as motivation."
Grant, who became a starter after the do-it-all Hummel blew out his knee three weeks ago, ignited a decisive, 20-3 run with 11 points to begin the second half.
Texas A&M 69, Utah St. 53: Freshman Khris Middleton erupted for a career-high 19 points as fifth-seeded Texas A&M crushed 12th seed Utah State in Spokane.
Middleton made his first four three-pointers. He finished 7-for-10 shots, including 5-for-6 on three-point attempts, in 25 minutes. Middleton came in averaging 7.0 points per game and shooting 29 percent from three-point range.
Duke 73, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 44: Duke opened play with a dominating victory over No. 16 seed Arkansas-Pine Bluff in Jacksonville.
Kyle Singler had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Duke, which never trailed. Jon Scheyer scored 13 and Lance Thomas 12. Nolan Smith added 10 points on a subpar shooting night (3-for-10) for the junior guard.
The victory gave Coach Mike Krzyzewski his 11th 30-win season in three decades at Duke, which has made 10 trips to the Final Four under him, though none since 2006.