SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The entire nation, minus all those crazy Kentucky fans, was hoping and praying for the upset. For the boys with who lacked athleticism and slipped through the cracks coming out of high school to topple John Calipari's high-powered, NBA-bound Wildcats.
For a few minutes -- about 4:44 to be exact -- it wasn't just a dream.
Then reality hit.
Kentucky overwhelmed the Ivy Leaguers from Cornell with their speed, athleticism and, believe it or not, disciplined defense.
Yes, disciplined defense from the team that was said to be all about just outrunning and outscoring its more intelligent foe.
"As opposed to what I saw on tape, this team was really keyed in and did a great job with their defensive assignments," Cornell coach Steve Donahue said after the 62-45 loss on Thursday night. "We get a lot of missed assignments every game."
But that didn't happen.
"They were very focused and aggressive on defense," Wittman said. "You've got to give them credit."
The Big Red, the nation's most adept shooting team from long distance, made just 5-of-21 from deep.
This, from a Kentucky team that was close to inept at defending on the perimeter early in the season.
"Teams lit us up the first few games of the season," Kentucky's star freshman point guard John Wall said.
But now the Wildcats have become more than just a high-powered offensive team. They proved that with the stellar defensive effort - allowing just 45 points - against a Cornell team that had put up impressive numbers all year long.
"It's really tough to guard because they have so many screens and so much motion," Kentucky's freshman big man DeMarcus Cousins said after the win. "You can't ever stop."
That's exactly what the Wildcats didn't do, especially after an early 10-2 start by Donahue's club that captivated the Cornell crowd and the entire country.
There were three other Sweet 16 games on Thursday night, but this was the one that everyone wanted to see.
Could Cornell pull off what would be regarded as one of the most memorable upsets in NCAA tournament history in a David vs. Goliath type of matchup?
The Big Red took Kansas to the wire in Lawrence in the regular season and convincingly knocked off Temple and Wisconsin to advance to the Sweet 16, but the Wildcats aren't Temple or Wisconsin.
Temple and Wisconsin don't have guys like John Wall, Patrick Patterson and Cousins on their roster. They don't have players like Daniel Orton coming off the bench.
Wall and Cousins became even more motivated for this game when the chants of "overrated" came from the raucous Cornell section prior to the game.
"It was like a road game," Wall said. "We like it. It makes us play better."
There were those who questioned whether the young, yet talented Wildcats would handle themselves in a hostile environment like the Carrier Dome on Thursday night.
In front of a predominantly Cornell crowd, the nation got a chance to find out that this team's maturity is well beyond its class status.
These kids won't get rattled largely because their coach, John Calipari, coaches toughness as well as just about anyone.
Now the Wildcats, with the departure of Kansas in the second round and fellow top-seed Syracuse earlier on Thursday night in the Sweet 16, become the heavy favorites to cut down the nets a week from Monday in Indianapolis.
However, first comes Saturday night's matchup with a West Virginia team that won the Big East tournament and has rolled through the Big Dance.
"I think Syracuse would have been a tough matchup for them," Cornell's 7-footer Jeff Foote said after the game. ``Without them, it definitely looks like Kentucky's the team to beat."
Give the boys from Ithaca credit.
This was not a 17-point game, as the final scoreboard indicated. The Big Red battled back and were down just 40-34 with less than five minutes remaining in the game.
"What this group accomplished is almost surreal, what's gone on the last two weeks," Donahue said.
But they had no answer for Cousins down the stretch.
They aren't alone, either.
"Cousins moves better than he looks and when he plays for 40 minutes, like he did tonight, he's tremendous," Donahue said.
Cousins may have been tremendous, but Kentucky's intelligence stood out even more.