MILWAUKEE — Jordan Crawford finally mustered a smile.
After a sour experience in the NCAA tournament two years ago, 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 scored 17 of his 28 points in the second half and Xavier kept its run of tournament success with a 65-54 victory over Minnesota in the first round of the West Regional on Friday.
Xavier (25-8) will be in the second round for the fourth straight year, this time under first-year coach Chris Mack.
Crawford was playing in his first NCAA tournament game in two years after transferring from Indiana, where the program was rocked by Kelvin Sampson’s departure. Crawford has had five coaches in two years and endured another switch from Sean Miller to Mack before the season.
Xavier faces Pittsburgh in the second round. The Panthers beat the Musketeers 60-55 in last year’s East Regional semifinals.
No. 1 Syracuse 79, No. 16 Vermont 56
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Wes Johnson had 18 points to lead five Syracuse players in double figures, and the Orange beat Catamounts.
Syracuse (29-4), playing without injured center Arinze Onuaku, avenged a stunning overtime loss to Vermont (25-10) in the 2005 tournament. The Orange plays eighth-seeded Gonzaga in the second round on Sunday. The Zags beat Florida State 67-60 on Friday night.
Marqus Blakely led Vermont with 17 points and Evan Fjeld had 13.
Onuaku injured his knee in the Big East tournament and the status of the man in the middle of the back of the 2-3 zone is up in the air for the second-round game.
No. 3 Pittsburgh 89, No. 14 Oakland 66
MILWAUKEE — Jermaine Dixon and Gilbert Brown scored 17 points apiece and the Panthers overcame a slow start to rout the Golden Grizzlies.
Brown’s strong performance off the bench was a boost for the third-seeded 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.
Big center Keith Benson scored 28 points for the 14th-seeded Golden Grizzlies (26-9).