WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- For a half, Western Kentucky was right with No. 16 Wichita State despite the fervor of a late-night crowd.
However, the Hilltoppers were unable to sustain that, allowing a two-point halftime deficit to turn into a 66-49 loss to the Shockers early Tuesday morning.
"We didn't defend as well as they did," Western Kentucky forward Aaron Adeoye said after the matchup that tipped at midnight locally and finished at 2:09 a.m. "They stayed disciplined and we didn't. We shied away from it, and they were more physical than us."
T.J. Price and Aleksej Rostov scored 12 points each to lead the Hilltoppers (0-1), who shot 7 for 30 from the field in the second half.
Fred VanVleet scored 17 points and Kadeem Coleby had 13 for Wichita State (2-0). Cleanthony Early finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, and Tekele Cotton added 10 points.
"That's a really good win for us," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "That team is going to win 20-something games and probably play in the NCAA tournament again."
Leading 30-28 at halftime, the Shockers scored the first nine points of the second half to take control. Caden Dickerson's 3-pointer pulled Western Kentucky to 51-42 with 8:44 to play, but Cotton scored the next four points for the Shockers to stem the tide.
"We had three or four defensive breakdowns right out of the gate," Hilltoppers coach Ray Harper said, "and it got away from us in the first five minutes. And we never recovered."
Western Kentucky didn't get within 10 points again.
After unveiling the banner to commemorate its run to the Final Four last season, the Shockers jumped to a 6-0 lead to excite the sell-out crowd.
Western Kentucky survived the rough early stretch and turned the rest of the half into a grudge match of runs. Price put Western Kentucky on the board with a 3-pointer that started a 12-4 run, capped by Kevin Kaspar's 3, for a 12-10 lead with 11:22 remaining in the half.
Wichita State answered with seven straight points, four from VanVleet, before Western Kentucky countered with nine straight, including Ben Lawson's slam and Kaspar's 3 for a 21-17 lead with 5:48 left in the period.
The Shockers followed with an 11-1 run, highlighted by two circus layups from VanVleet, before Price bounced in a 3 at the buzzer to pull the Hiltoppers within two.
A key for Western Kentucky in the first half was outrebounding Wichita State 21-20, including nine offensive rebounds.
"We were impatient, itchy, off-kilter in our motion offense in the first half," Marshall said. "So in the second half, we went to more of a ball-screen offense, and it worked well."
Wichita State came out strong in the second half. Ron Baker made a corner 3 and Coleby had three straight baskets, including two emphatic slams.
Through the first 11 minutes of the second half, Western Kentucky had just four baskets -- all by Rostov.
Wichita State finished with 12 blocks and had a 36-14 edge on scoring in the paint.
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