Slow starts have been a pattern for Wichita State in its last two contests.
The 16th-ranked Shockers look to rectify that problem Saturday and extend their home non-conference win streak to 21 games when they meet winless Tennessee State.
Wichita State (3-0) led by two at halftime of Monday’s 66-49 win over Western Kentucky and trailed by one at the break of Thursday’s 79-62 win over William & Mary.
“We’ve gotta do better coming out of the gate,” coach Gregg Marshall said.
Things didn’t go well in the first half Thursday. The Shockers never led in the first 20 minutes and trailed by as many as 10 points before using their superior size and depth to pull away.
“You can over-analyze any way you want to, but in a 40-minute game to win by 17 and we were down at least 10 at one point in the game,” Marshall said. “We finally played the way we need to play. My job is to make us play that way out of the gate, and I gotta do a better job.”
One encouraging sign was the career-high 18 points by sophomore Fred VanVleet, who has moved into the starting lineup this season and is the Shockers’ leading scorer with 15.7 points per game.
“Obviously, I’m playing more minutes, I’m being aggressive, but to be honest, as an opponent, when you’re looking at our team overall, I’m not the first guy you’re trying to take away,” said VanVleet, who also added eight assists. “That’s the benefit of having great players beside you.”
Two of the Shockers’ holdovers also reached double figures in points. Cleanthony Early had 14 points and nine rebounds and Ron Baker added 13 points.
Wichita State’s winning margin in this non-conference home streak has been by an average of 21.9 points.
Another lopsided result could be in order against a Tennessee State team that has lost its first three games by an average of 18.7 points — all in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu.
The Tigers shot 15.6 percent on 3-pointers in that event for one of the worst marks in Division I. It won’t be easy to get on track against a Shockers defense limiting opponents to 25.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Tennessee State has a potent scorer in Patrick Miller, averaging 20.7 points to rank among the Ohio Valley Conference’s early leaders. Miller was a first-team All-OVC selection last season and was named to the all-tournament team in Hawaii.
These teams have never met. The last time Tennessee State faced a team the season after it reached the Final Four, the Tigers lost 97-47 to Kentucky on Dec. 29, 1998.
This is the finale of a four-game homestand for Wichita State before it travels to Tulsa next Wednesday. The Shockers began 9-0 last season.