MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Stanford won't get a curtain call on the big stage.
The Cardinal's surprising NCAA tournament run was derailed in the Sweet 16 with an 82-72 loss to underdog Dayton on Thursday night at the FedEx Forum.
"I'm heartbroken," senior Josh Huestis said.
Playing in its first NCAA tournament since 2008, the 10th-seeded Cardinal (23-13) fell short in its bid to become the lowest-seeded Pac-12 Conference team to reach the Elite 8.
"It's definitely crushing," junior Anthony Brown said. "Everyone on this team thought we were going to go as far as we wanted to.
"Dayton came out and punched us in the mouth right away. We threw some punches back, but they were a little bit better today."
Just three weeks ago, the Cardinal was on the brink of failing to qualify for the tournament, putting coach Johnny Dawkins' job in jeopardy.
Stanford found its way in, then upset New Mexico and Kansas in St. Louis to join Pac-12 rivals Arizona and UCLA on the tournament's second weekend.
Dawkins, whose frustration showed Thursday when he was hit with a first-half technical foul, was nonetheless proud of what this team achieved.
"They left their legacy," he said. "They were able to go into the Sweet 16 and compete. They'll always be remembered for that."
But Dayton, a No. 11 seed from the Atlantic-10 Conference, was too quick, too deep, too skilled.
The Flyers (26-10) have beaten teams from the Big Ten (Ohio State), Atlantic Coast Conference (Syracuse) and Pac-12 on the way to their first Elite 8 appearance since 1984. They will play top-seeded Florida in Saturday's regional final.
Down by as many as 13 points in the first half and trailing 42-32 at the break, the Cardinal asserted its size advantage inside to open the second half and battled to within 47-43.
But the Cardinal's defense -- its strength much of the season -- could not hold up its end. Dayton attacked the basket or connected from the 3-point arc to dissect whichever defensive alignment Stanford tried.
"Every time we got it to four or six, they hit a 3 or made an 'and-one.' It's kind of deflating," Brown said. "They moved the ball extremely well. We just weren't the defensive team we're accustomed to."
The Flyers outscored the bigger Cardinal 36-32 in the paint, 14-5 in transition and 24-15 from the 3-point line.
"We weren't able to stop them," senior Dwight Powell said.
Asked if he felt the Flyers could get a basket whenever they needed one, guard Jordan Sibert said, "Yeah, we did for most of the game."
Dawkins didn't expect that Dayton's greater depth would matter -- unless the Cardinal ran into foul trouble. And it did.
Center Stefan Nastic, who had one of the best games of his career with 15 points, played just 20 minutes before fouling out. Powell had 17 points and nine rebounds but also battled fouls.
"When you have players as good as Dwight and Stef get in foul trouble, it affected us on offense and defense," Huestis said.
The Flyers, meanwhile, came at the Cardinal in waves, their bench outscoring its Stanford counterpart 34-2. Eleven Dayton played saw at least seven minutes on the floor.
"They were relentless," Dawkins said.
Dayton's numbers also allowed coach Archie Miller to keep fresh defenders on guard Chasson Randle. The Cardinal's leading scorer shot just 5 for 21 on the way to a 21-point performance.
"Being able to bring two guys in at each position ... they gave us different looks and were really tough tonight," Randle said.
It all clicked for the Flyers, now just one victory from their first Final Four since 1967, when they lost to Lew Alcindor and UCLA in the national championship game. Said freshman Kendall Pollard: "We really believe we can compete with anyone in the country."
Stanford players believed they could, too, until Thursday night.
"We don't have any more games," Powell said. "It's a very difficult pill to swallow."
Follow Jeff Faraudo on Twitter at twitter.com/JeffFaraudo.
first-half outburst. PAGE 4
of Friday's tournament games. PAGE 5
SWEET 16 GLANCE
South Regional (Memphis, Tenn.)
Dayton 82, Stanford 72
Florida 79, UCLA 68
West Regional (Anaheim)
Wisconsin 69, Baylor 52
Arizona 70, San Diego State 64
Midwest Regional (Indianapolis)
Tennessee vs. Michigan, 4:15 p.m. CBS
Kentucky vs. Louisville, 6:45 p.m. CBS
East Regional (New York City)
Iowa State vs. Connecticut, 4:25 p.m. TBS
Virginia vs. Michigan State, 6:55 p.m. TBS