At halftime of Friday's first-round NCAA East Regional game between Temple and Cornell, it was apparent that the 12th-seeded Big Red couldn't play much better, and that the Owls could.
By game's end, the Ivy League champions had simply shown they were the better team.
Behind stellar performances from guard Louis Dale and forward Ryan Wittman, Cornell got in front early and never had much reason to feel uncomfortable on its way to a 78-65 victory at Veterans Memorial Arena that ended the season of the Atlantic 10 champion Owls.
The Big Red (28-4), who also received 16 points and seven rebounds from 7-foot center Jeff Foote, moved on to face Wisconsin, a winner over Wofford, in a second-round game on Sunday (see page B6). This year marks the first time an Ancient Eight team has gotten by a first-round game since Princeton did it 1998.
For fifth-seeded Temple (29-6), seniors Ryan Brooks (14 points), Luis Guzman (nine), and Rafael DeLeon played the last games of their college careers.
"If I sit down and think a little bit, I can definitely be thankful for a great season and career," Brooks said as he stood in a quiet Temple locker room.
The game pitted Temple coach Fran Dunphy against Cornell's Steve Donahue, formerly of Morton, Delaware County, Pa., who sat beside the Owls' coach for 10 of the 17 years Dunphy spent running the program at Penn.
Temple, which fell in the first round of the tournament in 2009 and 2008, hasn't advanced since reaching the Elite Eight under Hall of Fame coach John Chaney in 2001.
Cornell was making its fifth appearance in the NCAAs. The Big Red, who went out in the first round the last two seasons, won for the first time on the biggest stage in college basketball.
"I don't know it has sunk in yet, but we want more," Wittman said.
Cornell led by 18 points with less than 10 minutes to go, which was Temple's largest deficit of the season. Temple trailed Villanova by 14 points, Seton Hall by 13 and Siena by 11. The Owls came back to win all three of those outings.
After trailing by eight points at intermission, Temple opened the second half by scoring on its first seven possessions. But the Owls were trading two-point baskets for three-pointers by the 6-7 Wittman, who nailed three in a row. With 14:26 remaining in the game, the Big Red had a 51-44 lead.
Cornell, the nation's best three-point shooting team, made 9 of 23 attempts from afar Friday.
"Well, I thought from the start that we were focused," said Donahue, whose squad tied the Ivy League record, set by Penn in 1970-71, for wins in a season. "I thought we did everything you need to do against a very good defensive team."