SPOKANE, Wash. — Purdue played the us-against-the-world game.
"You got the president picking against you, so it's a different thing," senior Keaton Grant said of the national chorus — including Barack Obama — expecting 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. That opened the inside for teammate JaJuan Johnson's 23 points and rallied the fourth-seeded Boilermakers past previous giant-killer Siena 72-64 on Friday in the first round.
Johnson, the tallest player on either team at 6 feet 10, tied his career high with 15 rebounds, and E'Twaun Moore added 12 points for the Boilermakers (28-5).
Then they let off some steam, in the direction of the White House and seemingly everyone else's house in a country that predicted the Saints (27-7) would pull a first-round upset in a third straight NCAA Tournament.
"I think the biggest thing was for me when President Obama just said he kind of felt sorry for us, just everything we been through and with this team and the adversity we face," said sophomore Lewis Jackson, who made key free throws in the final minute.
"Guys don't want people to feel sorry for us. We want to prove that we still have a lot of talent and can make a big run in the tournament."
Edwin Ubiles scored 18 for Siena, which came from 15 down to pull within 66-63 on a layup by Ryan Rossiter with 62 seconds left.
Duke 73, Ark.-Pine Bluff 44: Avoiding the upset bug that has taken down favorite after favorite, top-seeded Duke opened play with a dominating performance in Jacksonville.
"That really didn't cross our minds, that happening to us, the 1 vs. 16," said Jon Scheyer, who scored 13.
Kyle Singler had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Duke (30-5), which never trailed.
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.
"It's nice to have," Krzyzewski said of another 30-win season.
Tavaris Washington scored nine to lead Arkansas-Pine Bluff (18-16), which appeared in the NCAAs for the first time.
Texas A&M 69, Utah St. 53: Freshman Khris Middleton erupted for a career-high 19 points to lead the fifth-seeded Aggies in Spokane, Wash.
"Going into the game, I was a little nervous," Middleton said. "But as we started, I was less nervous and just played."
Making his first four 3-pointers helped. Middleton made 7 of 10 shots, including 5 of 6 3-pointers, in 25 minutes.
Texas A&M (24-9) advanced to the second round for the fifth consecutive year.
Utah State (27-8) lost its fifth consecutive first-round game. Its last win came in 2001 over Ohio State.
Jared Quayle, Utah State's all-Western Athletic Conference guard, was 5-of-18 from the field in one of the worst shooting performances of his career. He finished with 11 points.