- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Daisha Simmons wanted to make sure Alabama had a good shot on its last possession.

The junior guard made a layup with 2.3 seconds remaining to lift the Crimson Tide to a 57-55 win over No. 9 Kentucky on Thursday night.

“I just drove (to the basket) and it went in,” Simmons said. “It was a great win.”

Simmons finished with 22 points, including 17 in the second half, to lead Alabama (9-10, 2-4 Southeastern Conference). Brianna Hutchen added 10 points to help the Tide end a two game skid. Alabama was without leading scorer Shafontaye Myers due to disciplinary reasons.

Simmons said a team meeting on Wednesday night helped unite the Tide, who had lost four of their first five SEC games, including an 85-62 setback to the Wildcats on Jan. 2 in Tuscaloosa.

“We’ve been through a lot and had a lot of adversity,” Simmons said. “We had a team meeting and we just wanted to come together. We want to continue to pull together from here on out. We’ve lost a couple of games in the past but we’re not going to let that stop us from doing great things from here on out.”

Alabama coach Kristy Curry said Simmons is learning to become a team leader.

“Your best player has to be your hardest worker and she’s learning to do that,” Curry said. “She actually wants the ball at critical times and I thought Daisha would agree in that aspect. She wanted to take the last shot and it was a pretty smart shot down the stretch, using the glass on a great angle.”

Curry said the win gave the Crimson Tide a foundation to build on.

“We talk about the process a lot at Alabama right now, as we build (the program back) about winning today,” she said. “We were just really fortunate to make a few plays down the stretch. We missed a bunch of free throws and turned it over but I loved the way the kids stuck together. That’s definitely a learning process for us right now.”

Kentucky (15-4, 3-3 Southeastern Conference), tied the score at 55-all on two free throws by Jennifer O’Neill with 14.9 seconds to go. However, the Crimson Tide (9-10, 2-4) had plenty of time to set up for the last shot by Simmons.

A desperation attempt by Kastine Evans bounced off the back of the rim as time expired, giving Alabama its first win in Lexington since 2002.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Kentucky defeated Alabama in the conference opener on Jan. 2 in Tuscaloosa.

Samarie Walker scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half for Kentucky before she fouled out with 1:46 left. Bria Gross added 14 points.

“We are 3-3 (in the SEC) and that is not where anybody wanted to be after six games, but it is not 0-6 and it is certainly not time to start folding the tent up and saying the season is over,” Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said. “There is nowhere to go or nowhere to hide or no magic pill that we can take. We just need to come in and practice really hard tomorrow and practice really hard on Saturday.”

Walker scored Kentucky’s first 10 points of the second half as the Wildcats led 39-31 with 14 minutes left. Because of foul trouble, Walker played just 6 minutes in the first half.

After Walker’s scoring burst, the Crimson Tide went on a 16-2 run to take a 47-41 lead with 8:41 remaining. Simmons had two 3-pointers and scored eight points during the spurt.

Kentucky pulled to 52-51 with 3:59 remaining on a bucket by Walker, but a clutch 3 by Alabama’s Sharin Rivers pushed the margin to four and kept Alabama in the lead.

“Alabama came out and wanted it a lot more,” Walker said. “That showed more so down the stretch when we needed to get buckets and we needed to get stops.”

Curry said the team cried tears of joy following the victory.

“They’ve worked so hard,” she said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

The Wildcats shot just 38 percent from the line and made just 2-of-15 attempts on 3s. Kentucky missed all seven attempts in the second half.

Alabama wasn’t much better at 39 percent but made the shot that counted the most.

Both teams wore “We Back Pat” T-shirts in support of the Pat Summitt Foundation to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Retired Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was diagnosed with the disease in 2011.

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