— LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Alabama caught No. 25 Kentucky at the wrong time.
The Crimson Tide led the Wildcats 28-25 at halftime but couldn't keep up the pace in the second half and lost 55-48 on Tuesday night.
Kentucky (22-8, 12-5 Southeastern Conference) used its size in the post and rebounding prowess to avoid a third straight loss for the first time under coach John Calipari. Alabama (12-18, 6-11) beat the Wildcats 59-55 last season in Tuscaloosa but couldn't piece together a similar performance in dropping its fourth game in the past six.
Kentucky clinched the No. 2 seed for next week's SEC tournament.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant said Kentucky's 41-27 rebounding edge was the difference in the outcome and said the Wildcats' post players posed a problem for his team from the opening tip.
"I thought both halves it really affected us and our ability to rebound the ball," he said. "From start to finish, I thought tonight, it was probably the difference. Obviously, we knew coming into the game Kentucky was the best team in offensive rebounding in the country and we would have to do a great job rebounding with their size and physicality. It was an issue in both halves."
Trevor Releford had 13 points for Alabama, which shot just 33 percent in the second half and 38 percent overall.
Grant said another difference was Kentucky's free throw shooting. Although the Wildcats shot just 32.7 percent from the field (16 of 49), they made 18 of 24 from the free throw line.
"The difference in the game to me was offensive rebounding and the free throw line," Grant said.
Julius Randle had 12 points and 11 rebounds for Kentucky, which needed a bounce after Saturday's loss at South Carolina and with a huge hurdle looming this weekend at No. 1 Florida.
The Wildcats used a 15-2 second-half run to build a 43-34 lead and they added several smaller runs to hold off the stubborn Crimson Tide in their regular season home finale.