FORT MYERS, Fla. — Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber has intentionally used the word "new" instead of "young" to describe the Wildcats' roster this season.
Few others will make the same distinction following a 73-60 loss to Bradley in the third-place game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Wednesday at Suncoast Credit Union Arena.
K-State has a lot of growing up to do if it wants to bounce back from a pair of disappointing losses and make another run at the NCAA Tournament. It wasn't tough enough to beat Pittsburgh on Monday, and it wasn't resourceful enough to beat a motivated Braves opponent that lost 78-51 to Northwestern two days ago.
"We have to go back to the drawing board," Weber said. "Obviously it's disappointing. You don't want to go home 0-2. I thought we played at a really high level against Pittsburgh. It hurt me, I know it hurt them. I tried to make sure we didn't let one loss become two. I don't think it was we weren't ready, they were just more ready."
Defense is usually K-State's calling card, but not even that looked good in this game. Bradley found open shots against the Wildcats and made 13 three-pointers during a comfortable win. They made so many shots that Weber, who prefers man defense in most situations, switched to a zone in the second half.
None of it was all that effective.
Bradley guard Nate Kennell did whatever he wanted and hit six of eight shots from behind the arc on his way to a game-high 22 points. But he got plenty of help. Darrell Brown, Elijah Childs and Ja'Shon Henry also reached double figures.
"They made shots," Weber said. "Some of the guys made shots that they've never made. Our defense has been so good, but we didn't have answers tonight."
Xavier Sneed led K-State with 15 points, but he didn't have an efficient game and needed 12 shots to score them.
Looking for a spark, Weber experimented with a number of different lineups in the second half that featured Shaun Williams and David Sloan. Some of them worked, and Williams had his best game of the season with 10 points. But it wasn't enough.
"It's a learning experience," Sneed said. "We went 0-2. We didn't want to do that, but it's still early. We have still got a young team so we have still got a lot of ballgames left in the year to help us out."
K-State and Bradley looked like an even matchup in the first half, with the Braves taking a 38-37 lead. As long as the Wildcats could find a way to cool them down from the three-point line, they probably would take their chances in the second half.
But that didn't happen. Bradley won its first game against a Big 12 opponent since 2007.
"We just beat a really good team," Bradley coach Brian Wardle said. "I think Kansas State's really good, I do. But I think we can play with anyone when we come in committed to doing the little things and have the effort and energy that we had tonight."
The game ended with Weber and Cartier Diarra both picking up technical fouls because of frustration. That emotion may linger for a while.
The Wildcats left Florida with a pair of losses that will put pressure on them to pick up wins elsewhere before the start of Big 12 play if they hope to return to the NCAA Tournament this season.