FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Nate Kennell scored 22 points and Bradley beat Kansas State 73-60 as the 2019 NCAA Tournament teams met in the third-place game of the second annual Fort Myers Tip-Off on Wednesday night.
Kennell made 6 of 8 3-pointers for the Braves (5-2) and Darrell Brown, who made 4 of 8 behind the arc, added 15 points.
Kansas State didn’t score for the first 6:09 of the second half to fall behind 44-37. The Wildcats never could catch up.
Xavier Sneed led the Wildcats (4-2) with 15 points and Cartier Diarra and Shaun Williams both added 10 points.
After strongly criticizing his team’s play in a 78-51 loss to Northwestern on Monday, Brian Wardle saw his Braves get off to a great start by going up 14-6 early.
“That was out of character,” forward Elijah Childs said. “We didn’t go out and do what we were told in the game plan. Tonight, we listened to each other instead of bickering.”
When Kansas State made a 19-9 run to go up 25-23, Bradley didn’t back down and led 38-37 at halftime.
Wardle liked his team’s competitive spirit.
“We competed and defended and that’s how the program has grown every year,” he said. “It wasn’t there Monday, I don’t know why. It’s November. I challenged them and there are high-character kids in the locker room.”
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said his team has to go back to the drawing board.
“We all tried to make plays but we gotta play for each other,” Weber said. “We gotta admit we got our butts kicked, that we’ll get better and that we have to practice better. It starts with us as a staff but they gotta want to get better.”
Bradley: The Braves, who added nine players to a team that gave Michigan State all it could handle in the NCAAs, had the kind of bounce-back effort that will make it a factor in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Kansas State: The Wildcats, who didn’t have Montavious Murphy (knee) for the tournament, struggled inside and went into scoring lulls. Those are areas they’ll have to improve on if they want to avoid a ninth-place predicted finish in the Big 12.
Bradley made 13 of 23 3-pointers and 24-of-48 overall. It helped overcome 23 turnovers.
“I loved our pace,” Wardle said. “I didn’t like the defense. We were running and shooting quickly and I wanted us to continue. I think both teams ran out of gas in the second half and that’s when it came down to execution.”
Weber, who coached at Southern Illinois, said he warned his team Bradley would play with a lot of pride.
“I coached in the Valley and I know how important it is to them,” Weber said. “They pushed it up on us. Our defense has been good but they had a lot of guys making 3-pointers.”
Wisconsin, Butler, Colorado and South Florida will play in the 2020 Fort Myers Tip-Off.
Wisconsin made Final Four trips in 2014 and 2015 and Butler went in 2010 and 2011.
Next season will be third Fort Myers Tip-Off. Boston College won the inaugural event.
Kansas State will return home on Monday to play Florida A&M.
Bradley will travel to No. 16 Memphis on Tuesday.