TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama rocketed to a huge halftime lead against No. 7 Kentucky, then held on for dear life — and a rare upset over a ranked team.
Jasmine Robinson scored 17 points and the Crimson Tide held off a big rally for a 77-75 victory over the faltering Wildcats Thursday night, Alabama's first win against a Top 25 team in more than nine years.
"We were just playing hard," Robinson said. "I think that was the whole key because we wanted to win so bad.
"We didn't want to lose again because we were up the whole game. I think it was us coming together and playing hard."
The Tide (12-15, 2-11 Southeastern Conference) had most of a 23-point lead wiped out in the second half before handing the league-leading Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) their third straight defeat.
"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," Kentucky Coach Matthew 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.
The result was the Tide's first win over a ranked team since a 70-59 victory against No. 24 BYU on Dec. 21, 2002.
A'dia Mathies kept this one in question with 26 points for Kentucky, including a three-pointer with 1 second left. The Wildcats were coming off a 91-54 loss to No. 13 Tennessee after losing at LSU.
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 three 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-for-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.
Mitchell started the second half with three starters on the bench, including Mathies.
"We just tried to get a group to start the second half on the floor that wanted to play hard and had some desire," he 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."
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 within 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."