Temple initially had trouble shaking off its NCAA blahs and just as much difficulty with a Bucknell team that played with passion and energy and plenty of fight on Wednesday.
It ultimately took a season-best performance by senior point guard Will Cummings to extend his Temple career and his team's season.
Cummings scored 30 points, one below his career high, as top-seeded Temple shook off No. 8 Bucknell, 73-67, in the opening-round NIT game at the Liacouras Center.
Temple (24-10) will host George Washington in a second-round game at 11 a.m. Sunday. Bucknell, the regular-season Patriot League champion, finished 19-15.
Cummings shot 9 for 14 for the field and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc while also making all nine of his free throws. He admitted it had been difficult to put the Owls' NCAA snub behind him.
"I had to refocus," he said. "I can't be thinking of the NCAA tournament [while my teammates] think of Bucknell."
Cummings worked around two first-half fouls that forced him to sit for eight minutes. But his biggest motivation was a fear of failure.
"We didn't want to go out on a sour note," Cummings said. "It would have been bad if we didn't make the NCAA tournament and came here and lost."
Quenton DeCosey added 13 points, five assists, and seven rebounds with no turnovers, while Josh Brown came off the bench to score 11 points.
"They were not respecting my jumper, so I had to be aggressive," said Brown, who was 4 of 8 from the field.
Every time Temple appeared ready to pull away, Bucknell seemed to answer.
Bucknell's Steven Kaspar hit a corner three, and the Bison called timeout, down by 68-65 with 40.2 seconds remaining.
DeCosey hit two Temple free throws with 33.5 seconds left.
When Bucknell's Chris Hass missed a forced three and Temple's Obi Enechionyia got the rebound and made two free throws with 18.1 seconds to go, Temple finally could breathe easily.
Hass led four double-figure Bison scorers with 15 points.
After Bucknell scored the game's first five points, Temple coach Fran Dunphy called a timeout just 1 minute, 10 seconds in.
"I called the timeout to implore their efforts more," Dunphy said.
Temple needed the imploring, because Bucknell wasn't going to give the Owls a free pass. However, Cummings wasn't quite ready to call it a career.