WICHITA, Kan. -- Fred VanVleet didn't have enough energy to be too excited after No. 16 Wichita State's latest victory.
"It's pretty late," VanVleet said after the matchup that tipped at midnight locally and finished at 2:09 a.m. "And it took a lot of mental and physical focus for this game."
Cleanthony Early finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Shockers (2-0) while Tekele Cotton added 10 points. Before the game, Wichita State unveiled the banner to commemorate its run to the Final Four last season.
Shockers coach Gregg Marshall spent the long day before the game putting his team through two walk-through and video sessions. And much of the preparation went out the window at halftime, with the team shooting 38.6 percent and leading only 30-28.
"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 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, which shot 7 for 30 in the second half, didn't get within 10 points again.
"We didn't defend as well as they did," Hilltoppers forward Aaron Adeoye said, "They stayed disciplined and we didn't."
T.J. Price and Aleksej Rostov scored 12 points each to lead Western Kentucky (0-1).
Wichita State, which finished with 12 blocks and had a 36-14 edge on scoring in the paint, jumped out to a 6-0 lead to excite the sold-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.
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.
Coleby, a senior transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, was willing to take credit for the blocked shots, even beyond his three.
"Yeah, I brought it here," he said. "Guys are stalking them out. We're looking for them now. You can't just drive us for easy shots."