Bruce Weber is frustrated.
You could tell that much by looking at his face or listening to his words following Kansas State’s 50-47 victory over Bradley on Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum. Weber, the Wildcats’ coach, was glad his team won, but not about much else.
He thinks his team is losing its identity.
“I don’t think we have one, but we have got to figure something out,” Weber said. “Mentally, I think we all thought it would be offensively. We have better weapons offensively (than last year). Obviously, it has come to fruition in three or four games when we have scored pretty well. The other ones, we haven’t.”
K-State certainly struggled to score against Bradley. The Wildcats have called Bramlage Coliseum home since 1988, so it’s rare for anything to occur within the building that fans have not seen before. But they witnessed something Tuesday — the dullest first half in the building’s history.
After 20 minutes, the Braves led the Wildcats 19-18. With a combined total of 37 points, that set an arena low for halftime scoring.
The low-scoring affair was partly a result of Bradley’s slow approach, and partly due to K-State errors.
The box score was ugly. Bradley shot 25 percent from the field, while K-State hit 23.1 percent of its shots. The Braves lost seven turnovers, while the Wildcats gave the ball away 11 times. Weber watched as his team went 16 minutes, 58 seconds without making a field goal, and 8:57 without scoring.
Things got so dreary that the loudest cheer in the first half belonged to a fan who came out of the stands during a timeout and hit a three to win a prize. It was the best shot of the night, at that point.
“We have got to be smarter,” Weber said. “They put us on defense for 28, 30 seconds and then we come down and try to make a play. One timeout, everybody said, ‘Let’s be patient and move the ball.’ Then we throw the ball to Nino (Williams) on one pass and he drove.
“It just didn’t make sense. I don’t think they are selfish or anything. They are all trying. It is just a little bit of stress. They are trying to do well. We just have to help them.”
If not for quality free-throw shooting — 11 of 12 — K-State might not have been able to make adjustments and push past Bradley in the second half.
“It happens like that in college basketball,” Williams said. “There were a lot of missed shots and it was a grind-it-out game. We turned the ball over a lot. Besides that I thought we played well, we just couldn’t hit shots.”
A three by Nigel Johnson seconds before the halftime buzzer seemed to shift momentum in K-State’s favor. The Wildcats missed nine straight shots going back nearly 17 minutes before that shot went through the net, but they started the second half on a 14-2 run.
Sophomore guard Marcus Foster led the way during that key stretch, hitting a pair of threes and making a driving layup while Williams, Justin Edwards and Jevon Thomas also scored.
“We just came together and talked about in the locker room,” Foster said. “We corrected the things we needed to correct and started playing stronger. People started hitting shots like I was a little bit. That is really all that happened, we picked up our energy level.
Williams led the Wildcats with 14 points and 12 rebounds, his second double-double. Foster finished with 13 points.
Up 32-21, K-State appeared well on its way to victory. But it couldn’t put Bradley away.
Behind 21 points from Auston Barnes, the Braves fought back and had a chance to send the game to overtime trailing 50-47. They called timeout with 13.6 seconds remaining and moved the ball around until Ka’Darryl Bell got off an open three from the corner, missing long.
Edwards came away with a rebound and the Wildcats, 5-4, held off the Braves, 3-6.
“We needed a win like this,” Williams said. “We lost the last couple of games like this, so we needed a win in a close game.”
With the win, K-State, will now start preparing for its next game against Savannah State on Sunday.
Weber knows what he will ask his team to work on in practice until then.
“We have got to see if we can find another way to score,” Weber said, “and get some other people involved.”