Kentucky played like a coaches' dream in the first four minutes.
The final 36 minutes were more like a nightmare as the Cats fell 52-45 to Mississippi State and former UK coach Sharon Fanning in Lexington for the sixth straight time.
"It was a bad, bad game for us," Coach Matthew Mitchell said.
Mitchell didn't struggle to find reasons for the Cats' implosion after they raced to a 12-0 lead and seemingly had State running for cover.
"We missed wide-open shots; we missed free throws," Mitchell said. "About everything you can miss, we missed it. We got outhustled, got outrebounded."
All it took to discombobulate Kentucky was a zone defense.
State missed its first nine shots and turned the ball over six times before it finally scored six minutes into the game.
"I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to come out on the court," Fanning said of her team's slow start.
Looking for something — anything — to change the course of the game, Fanning went to an extended zone.
"Our players never adjusted," Mitchell said. "There were openings inside, but we were too indecisive all day and just held on to the ball. ... It led to a very bad result for us, and that was a game we needed to win."
That zone caused Kentucky (12-7, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) to go more than eight minutes without a field goal in the first half. The Cats missed nine consecutive shots and turned the ball over four times as Mississippi State (14-4, 2-2) pulled within two points with 5:52 to play in the first half.
"We got too relaxed," UK's Victoria Dunlap said. "Then they started coming after us, started attacking us."
Dunlap and frontcourt mate Eleia Roddy each scored in double figures for Kentucky, but they got little help.
UK's other six players went a combined 5-for-31 from the field. Sophomore guard Carly Morrow, coming off a career-high 19 points at Alabama, missed her first 11 shots and finished 2-for-14.
"It was pretty evident some players didn't play up to their usual capabilities," Mitchell said.
Roddy had 18 points and six rebounds. Dunlap added 12 points and 13 rebounds for Kentucky, which shot 31.6 percent from the field and 15.4 percent from three-point range.
Chanel Mokango, who led State with 15 points and nine rebounds, said it was clear the Bulldogs' defense was frustrating Kentucky.
"They were looking for their shooters and couldn't find them, and they didn't know what to do," Mokango said.
Armelie Lumanu and Mary Kathryn Govero added 11 apiece for Mississippi State.
Morrow's three-pointer with 2:06 to go pulled Kentucky within three, but Govero answered with a three-pointer of her own with a minute to play.
That was all the Bulldogs would need to pull out a win that seemed so unlikely just 35 minutes before.
"I was pleased with how we regrouped and we found a way to win," Fanning said. "Winning on the road is tough in our league. Winning any basketball game is tough."
Losing this game was particularly tough for UK, which had won seven of its last eight and seemed to be on the rise.
"It's so disappointing to come out and start like that and get control of the game and we let it slip away," Mitchell said.
■ Amani Franklin did not start for the first time in 13 games. Mitchell said earlier this week that the junior guard had been held out of much of practice this week with soreness in her knee, which was surgically repaired earlier in her UK career. Franklin played 18 minutes.
■ For the first time this season, 6-foot-5 center Catina Bett did not get off the bench. It was a coach's decision.