Owls ousted

No. 5 Temple fell to No. 12 Cornell, 78-65, in the first round of the NCAA tournament today. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

Well, that was quick.

They worried in their hearts, the Temple people did, when Cornell popped up in the bracket. They knew the Big Red as a friend, yes -- Temple coach Fran Dunphy and Cornell coach Steve Donahue go back forever -- but they also knew Cornell as a team full of seniors who could hit three-pointers. They saw what the Big Red did at Kansas in a late, close loss. They knew what was in store for them.

But they didn’t predict such carnage. They couldn’t have imagined it. They didn’t anticipate getting beaten so thoroughly by the Cornell ballhandlers. The best defensive team in Philadelphia, including the Sixers, got absolutely shredded by Cornell, 78-65. The first-round game in Jacksonville would be the only game for the champion of the Atlantic 10. For Dunphy, again, it is one-and-done.

Trailing by eight at the half, Temple came out and scored on eight of its first nine possessions -- but the Owls couldn’t make any headway. A Cornell team that led the nation in three-point shooting, but which was quiet that way in the first half while unfurling its mid-range game, finally came with a rain of threes. Temple never really threatened. The Owls cut the deficit to six with about 15 minutes to go, and shot the ball pretty well themselves overall, but that was it. Cornell was uber-efficient.

Ryan Wittman had 20 for Cornell, and Louis Dale, a real assassin, had 21. The 7-footer, Jeff Foote, had 16. For Temple, Juan Fernandez had 14 points, and Lavoy Allen and Ryan Brooks each had 11.

The Big Red were winning by 37-29 at the half and the score was pretty indicative of what went on. That the Donahues were ready goes without saying. But it played out differently than a lot of people expected. Cornell, the best three-point shooting team in the nation, instead used its ball movement and its ballhandling quickness to get the ball inside and do all kinds of damage inside the arc. They shot 68 percent for the half and got scoring contributions from five different guys.

At the other end, Cornell changed defenses and played very aggressively on the perimeter -- and Temple’s ballhandling skills were challenged. On the Owls’ halftime stat sheet, a pair of 9’s stood out -- 9 turnovers and 9 fouls. Both were high, and concerning.

Three times this season, Temple had come from behind by double digits in the first half to win, all against good teams: Villanova, Siena and Seton Hall. Given that Cornell led by 11 at one point in the first half, this would have to be the fourth.

Didn’t happen.

Didn’t come close.

Madness, etc.