Wichita State has already developed a nagging habit of starting games slow. Though it hasn't cost the Shockers yet, coach Gregg Marshall knows that won't always be the case.
The 14th-ranked Shockers will try to come out strong Wednesday night at Tulsa.
Wichita State (4-0) has won its three games against Division I competition by an average of 16.0 points, but it has had difficulties creating separation in the first half. The Shockers own an even first-half scoring margin of 96-96 while shooting 40.0 percent from the field.
They've generally pulled away in the final 20 minutes, shooting 52.9 percent while averaging 44.7 points.
Marshall's group stayed true to that script in an 85-71 home win over Tennessee State on Saturday. The Shockers trailed 29-28 at halftime, leading to a harsh verbal lashing in the locker room from Marshall, point guard Tekele Cotton said.
Marshall mentioned a hectic early schedule as a possible reason behind his team's sluggish first halves. Wichita State played its first four games over a span of eight days.
"But if you can play in the second half, why can't you play in the first?" Marshall said. "So I have to get that figured out."
Cotton finished 6 of 8 from the floor, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range, and scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in the second half to help the Shockers distance themselves. Nick Wiggins finished with 12 off the bench, with 10 coming in the final 20 minutes.
Wiggins is averaging 8.5 points despite playing just 15.3 minutes per game.
"Nick's playing really well and giving us a spark off the bench," Marshall said. "And when you do that, your minutes go up. His are on the rise."
The Shockers could be in for another slow start as the Golden Hurricane have held opponents to 36.8 percent shooting in the first half, though that hasn't led to a victory.
Tulsa (0-2) held a 10-point second-half edge before losing 96-93 at Missouri State on Friday. Shaquille Harrison scored a game-high 21 but missed what would have been a tying free throw with 27 seconds left.
"Missouri State made more plays than us down the stretch," coach Danny Manning said after his team was outscored 57-50 in the second. "We go into halftime with a lead, and they come out in the second half, drive the basketball and get to the free-throw line, and we're not able to stay in front of them."
Harrison, averaging 19.5 points, was just 2 of 9 for seven points with four turnovers in an 86-60 loss at Wichita State last season, the Shockers' fifth straight victory in the series.
Tulsa guard James Woodard scored a team-high 15 but is 3 of 11 with 12 points to start the season after averaging 12.0 in 2012-13.
Wichita State shot 52.2 percent from the field and forced 16 turnovers while committing only eight.
Tulsa has lost its last 20 regular-season games against ranked teams since an 88-68 win at then-No. 11 Tennessee on Dec. 23, 1999.
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