TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell gave his team a little shake-up by opening the second half with three starters on the bench, including star A'dia Mathies.
Mathies and the seventh-ranked Wildcats responded with an offensive resurgence that was impressive but not nearly enough in a 77-75 loss to Alabama on Thursday night, their third straight defeat.
"We just tried to get a group to start the second half on the floor that wanted to play hard and had some desire," Mitchell said. "I just think that we got it together and played really hard in the second half. It just was not enough to overcome Alabama."
The Wildcats (21-5, 10-3 Southeastern Conference) fell behind by 23 in the first few seconds after halftime, but Mathies helped keep the outcome in question with 26 points, including a 3-pointer with 1 second left.
Kentucky was coming off a 91-54 loss to No. 13 Tennessee after losing at LSU.
Jasmine Robinson scored 17 points for the Crimson Tide (12-15, 2-11 Southeastern Conference), which managed its first win over a ranked team since a 70-59 victory against No. 24 BYU on Dec. 21, 2002.
"That was a tough loss for us tonight and Alabama sure played hard and had a really great first half and outworked us most of the night," Mitchell said. "We'll have to see if we can regroup.
"(Alabama) just played with much more hustle and much more effort and more desire, clearly wanted the game from the beginning. We just didn't respond very well," he said.
Tide coach Wendell Hudson wasn't surprised the Wildcats made a charge after his team opened with "the best half we've played all year."
"We were playing the No. 7 team in the country, that's a big part of it," said Hudson, limited to eight players because of injuries. "We knew Kentucky was going to come out and pressure and play better defense in the second half."
Mathies drained a quick 3 and Bria Goss scored on a drive to make it 74-70 with 35 seconds to go. Shafontaye Myers dribbled around for some 20 seconds against Kentucky's full-court pressure before heaving a long pass to a streaking Meghan Perkins for the game-sealing layup.
Robinson had six rebounds and three steals for the Tide. Perkins shot 6 of 7 for 14 points and Kyra Crosby scored 10.
Alabama won despite committing 30 turnovers, partly because the Wildcats had 22 of their own.
Mathies scored 18 in the second half on 8-of-10 shooting, adding six steals and five assists. Samarie Walker added 13 points and Goss 12.
The second half was almost a mirror image of the first. Kentucky shot 60 percent while Alabama was at 33 percent and turned it over 15 times.
The Wildcats trailed 50-28 at halftime after the Tide hit 21 of 30 shots (70 percent) and Kentucky committed 15 turnovers.
"We attacked the basket, we made the extra pass, we were really playing so well together," Hudson said.
Alabama added a free throw 5 seconds into the second half before Kentucky started its comeback attempt.
The Wildcats scored 13 straight points en route to a 19-4 run, closing to 63-57 on a putback by Mathies with 7:32 left. Alabama missed 10 straight shots during that span, going scoreless for nearly six minutes.
Kentucky cut the deficit to five twice in the next few minutes, but Perkins pushed it to 72-65 on two free throws with 2:35 left.
Neither team scored again until Crosby made another pair from the line with a minute left.
"We got a little too excited about the way we played in the first half, so we got a little complacent in the second half," Perkins said. "But we just had to settle down and play defense."